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Saudi war crimes: Double standards and whitewashing?

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam
is the Yemen Unit Director for the Next Century Foundation (London). Formerly a consultant on Yemen for the UNSC, her writings and commentaries have appeared in major outlets, including RT, Al Jazeera, CGTN, Elaph and the BBC.
is the Yemen Unit Director for the Next Century Foundation (London). Formerly a consultant on Yemen for the UNSC, her writings and commentaries have appeared in major outlets, including RT, Al Jazeera, CGTN, Elaph and the BBC.
Saudi war crimes: Double standards and whitewashing?
As Yemen sinks further into the pyre of war, Saudi Arabia has used its billions to whitewash intolerable war crimes and human rights abuses against civilian populations. From cluster bombs to chemical attacks, is there an end to Al Saud’s spiral?

As Saudi Arabia continues to make the headlines, might it be the kingdom's alleged ambition to preside over the UN Human Rights Council coming in January 2016, or the surfacing of further evidence that its officials have both exploited and promoted the spread of Islamic radicalism to serve very geo-political agendas - the control of natural resources being one of the main goals (oil, gas and water), this world grandest and most repressive theocracy has added war criminal to its list of sins.

And though the very idea that Saudi Arabia would engage in such illegal and morally reprehensible activities as willingly and systematically harming civilian populations in the pursuit of its hegemonic goals in Yemen, it is the world's silence which is most alarming.

When Western powers have been so intent on highlighting and at times fabricating damning evidences of abuses where Russia and Iran are concerned for example, why the sudden blindness toward the kingdom? Or is it those days that international law and regulations serve as political weapons to those powerful or rich enough to wield them?

A decade into America's war against terror, the rule of law has been weaponized to serve as a tool for neo-imperialism – Saudi Arabia, the US' most trusted and loyal ally in the Middle East serves as a perfect example as to how this new political and legal whitewashing operates.

People gather on the rubble of houses destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike near Yemen's capital Sanaa June 3, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Since Riyadh unilaterally announced its military engagement against Yemen on March 25, alleging it sought to "facilitate Yemen's democratic transition," through the reinstatement of once resigned, twice-runaway President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the oil giant has rained death on all four corners of Yemen.

And since Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arabian peninsula, proved tougher than anticipated, its military more willing and capable to defend its people's territorial sovereignty than most officials ever dreamed, Al Saud royals have gone down a dark path – using banned weapons of war as their ire grew against rebellious Yemen.

With no end in sight, the Yemeni quagmire has forced Riyadh to roll out its most deadly military arsenals – and to hell with the consequences. Confident that there will be no legal repercussions to their crimes, no political price to pay before the international community, and no media coverage to denounce the sickening face of Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, Saudi officials have grown bolder and bolder in their mad military spiral.

It seems there is no limit to the lengths Saudi Arabia will go to to secure a win against Yemen – they are using cluster bombs and allegedly chemical weapons - while the "allies" turn their gaze away from the war-torn country.

Breakin:Reports, #Saudi airforce used cluster bomb in #Saada#Yemen Any1 can tell what type? #HRW#UNSC#Peace4Yemenpic.twitter.com/db4IEhNISS

— Hussain Albukhaiti (@HussainBukhaiti) May 23, 2015

No outraged media here, no wide condemnation or moral political grandstanding. When the poorest and most vulnerable die, only silence reigns.

A few weeks after Human Rights Watch published a report accusing Saudi Arabia of using cluster bombs in the Yemen highlands (northern provinces), the rights organization presented further evidences of the kingdom's guilt.

And though Saudi Arabia's military spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, has been adamant his country did not use cluster bombs in Yemen, evidence to the contrary is piling up. Shortly after the airstrikes began, Asseri told reporters at a press conference: "We are not using cluster bombs at all" – and yet it would appear they do.

A Houthi militant gestures to prevent people from gathering to look at the Yemeni Football Association building, which was damaged in a Saudi-led air strike, in Sanaa May 31, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

"Banned cluster munitions have wounded civilians including a child in attacks in Houthi-controlled territory in northern Yemen. Human Rights Watch visited the Saada governorate in northern Yemen, including one of the sites that had been attacked, on May 15 and 16, 2015," HRW said in its latest report on May 3.

Despite Saudi officials' best efforts to deny ground realities, the kingdom has a bit of a record when it comes to using illegal warfare. Back in 2009, in its other war against the Houthis, the kingdom also took to deploying cluster bombs in heavily populated areas.

Actually, Saudi Arabia is a regular cluster bombs' consumer. In 2013, the kingdom received delivery of such weapons courtesy of the United States. And so for a country not using cluster bombs, the kingdom surely knows how to buy them.

But cluster bombs are not the only illegal weapons the Saudis have been covertly using against Yemen. Many Yemeni rights activists would actually argue that cluster bombs are the least of Yemen's problem.

Hussain Al Bukhaiti, a Sana'a-based Yemeni political activist stated as early as April that Saudi Arabia was covertly using chemical weapons (WARNING: graphic images) in both Sana'a, the capital and Sa'ada, a Houthi stronghold in the north.

In an interview, Al Bukhaiti revealed how residents in the capital experienced breathing difficulties as the pungent smell of chlorine spread near bombed areas. "I'm not a physician but the symptoms and burns residents presented scream toxic chemical exposure," he said in early May.

Sarah Abdullah Al Ansi, a doctor with a PhD in toxicology in Yemen, confirmed that several patients she personally treated chemical burns and injuries suggesting chlorine and white phosphorus agents had been used.

"We have had dozens and dozens of cases coming through hospitals but because the media are not interested in denouncing war crimes, such abuses against humanity have gone unnoticed and of course unpunished," she said, adding: "There is a great deal of fear among the people that Saudi Arabia will resort to launching a grand chemical attack on Yemen, or worse …nuclear."

This unspoken rule of silence surrounding this world's oligarchy simply cannot hold anymore.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.