Will Seven Million Starving Yemenis Ever Find Justice?

The control of food importation into Yemen is being used as a weapon of war, seemingly by all sides.

By Catriona Murdoch* and Wayne Jordash**

A photograph from September 2016 shows a malnourished boy laying on a bed outside his family's hut in Hodaida, Yemen [Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters]

A photograph from September 2016 shows a malnourished boy laying on a bed outside his family’s hut in Hodaida, Yemen [Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters]

The last two decades have seen a significant expansion of international, regional and domestic accountability mechanisms for an array of international crimes and a variety of forgotten victims. Much of this activity has been focused on the conduct of senior military and political leaders who control or significantly contribute to excesses on the battlefield. However, as is becoming clear, this focus does not adequately confront the scale or scope of victims living in the path of armed conflict or under the yoke of brutalising regimes.

This year has seen the resurgence of famineSouth Sudan is enduring the first famine to be declared globally for six years. NigeriaSomalia and Yemen are all on the brink of famine. In each, deliberate political and military action has contributed to the resulting death and injury of thousands of innocent civilians, demanding that serious consideration be given to prosecuting those responsible. Yemen is emblematic of the problem and a may provide a backdrop for the development of the potential remedy proffered by a more imaginative approach to the prosecution of those who engineer, or fail to act to prevent, mass starvation.

Yemen has been described as the “war the world forgot” eclipsed by Syria and complicated by a Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States, the United Kingdomand France. The resulting humanitarian disaster features a famine of cataclysmic proportions. The word “famine” evokes images of dusty pot-bellied children and the wrath of nature. However, the reality is that this is less nature’s cruelty and more mans: “starvation” often more accurately reflects these wholly human-made and preventable catastrophes, where failed diplomacy and ostensible military objectives collide. Continue reading

How Israel Defence Forces Behaved in Gaza War

Gaza July 2014

Gaza July 2014

The army veterans’ organization has released a report called “Breaking the Silence” containing testimonies of 60 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers who fought during Operation Protective Edge last July and August. According to the group, the testimonies are indicative of a general principle that governed the entire military operation: minimum risk to the Israeli forces, even if it meant civilian casualties.

The rules of engagement basically established that “Anyone found in an IDF area, which the IDF had occupied, was not a civilian. That was the assumption,” one of the soldiers stated.

An armored infantry soldier reported that, at some point, it was understood that any home which Israeli forces entered and used would be destroyed afterward by large D9 bulldozers. “At no point until the end of the operation … did anyone tell us what the operational usefulness was in exposing [razing] the houses,” he said. “During a conversation, the unit commanders explained that it wasn’t an act of revenge. At a certain point we realized this was a trend. You leave a house and there’s no longer a house. The D9 comes and exposes [it].”

There were also several reports of shooting at civilians. A woman who was clearly unstable and no threat was reportedly ordered by the battalion commander to walk westward, toward an area where tanks were stationed. When the woman approached the tank force, she was machine-gunned to death.

The detailed testimonies in the report include other practices that some units adopted during Operation Protective Edge.

The full report is available here.

Kosovo Parliament Approves Creation of Special Court

Members of parliament take the oath during its first session in Pristina

Kosovo Parliament

Yesterday, the Kosovo parliament approved the creation of an EU-backed special court for serious abuses committed during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. Parliament approved the special court by a vote of 82 to 22, with 2 abstentions.

The special court will adjudicate cases against individuals based on a 2010 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty. The report accused some members of the ethnic Albanian insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of abductions, beatings, summary executions, and in some cases, the forced removal of human organs on Albanian territory during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The report named some individuals currently in the Kosovo government, including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Thaci, who was the political chief of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, has rejected the allegations as an attempt to tarnish KLA’s reputation.

The Marty report said most of the alleged crimes occurred after June 1999, when NATO’s bombing campaign forced Belgrade to end the war and withdraw Serb forces from Kosovo.

The special court will operate within the Kosovo justice system but, prosecutors and judges will be international. It will have one seat in Kosovo and another abroad, possibly in the Netherlands, which will deal with protected witnesses.

An estimated 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war, the great majority of them being ethnic Albanians. About 1,700 people are still missing.