US military personnel may be subject to war crimes probes if the Saudi-led coalition hits civilian targets in Yemen because the US refuels the coalition’s jets, Ted Lieu warned in a letter to Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Lieu, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives and a former US Air Force lawyer, argued that while the US distanced itself from reviewing and selecting targets in Yemen, it nevertheless could bear responsibility for the Saudi-led coalition air strikes if they hit civilians, as American tankers refuel jets on bombing missions.
“The US would appear to be violating the LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] and international standards by engaging in such direct military operations if US personnel are not aware if targets are civilian or military, of the loss of life and property are disproportional, or if the operation is even military necessary,” Lieu wrote in an official letter from November 2, asking to “clarify the role of the US” in the war in Yemen.
He reminded the addressees that the first concerns about US servicemen in Yemen potentially being involved in the breach of the war conduct were raised by the State Department lawyers in October. However, “the Administration nevertheless chose to proceed to aid and abet the Coalition,” he pointed out.
By turning a blind eye to what type of targets the US is exactly helping to destroy, Washington has shown “willful blindness,” Lieu writes, adding that the situation seems to be deteriorating for the US as more evidence on Saudi-led coalition strikes on civilian targets, such as hospitals, schools, markets and peaceful processions like weddings and funerals emerges.
“By now, the US has knowledge that, in the past 18 months, coalition jets have struck civilian targets multiple times,” he says, citing Amnesty International’s estimates that coalition jets in Yemen have carried out “at least 70 unlawful airstrikes.”
The increasing number of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign brings US servicemen “at legal risk of being investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing war crimes,” Lieu says. He adds that they can be found guilty under both international and US law.
The Saudi-led coalition was accused of war crimes following the deadly airstrike on a funeral on October 8, that left at least 140 people dead and hundreds injured. The ceremony was held for the late father of a senior Houthi official. Upon internal investigation carried out by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), the coalition issued an apology, calling the bombing “an unintentional incident,” while blaming it on misleading intelligence.
In the aftermath of the incident, US vowed to conduct an “immediate review” of its support for the coalition, with White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price saying in a statement that US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a “blank check.”
‘Will the Turkish government abide by the internationally accepted standards of parliamentary democracy? This is the basic question,’ says politician from Kurdish-backed party
The attack in the country’s largest Kurdish-majority city followed the overnight arrests of the two leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) along with up to 11 other MPs from the group, whose support base is largely made up of Kurds from the region.
Selahattin Demirtas, dubbed the “Kurdish Obama” by admirers for his charismatic speaking style, and Figen Yuksekdag were detained at their respective homes in Ankara as part of a counter-terrorism investigation, security sources told Turkish media.
The provincial governor’s office in Diyarbakir said a car bomb went off around 8am on Friday. The office said in a statement that Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) militants were believed to be responsible.
The bomb went off near a police station in the Baglar district where the politicians arrested in Diyarbakir had been taken, a security source said. The explosion resounded through the city and ambulances rushed to the scene.
A series of deadly bomb attacks have hit Turkey in the past 18 months. The country remains under a state of emergency that was imposed after a failed coup in July. The emergency allows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.
The MPs were reportedly arrested after they failed to appear in court to testify in ongoing terrorism-related investigations.
Police searched the HDP’s head offices in central Ankara as well as making the arrests, the BBC reported.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp were reported to be inaccessible inside Turkey shortly after the arrests, even when users tried to circumvent restrictions using a virtual private network.
Mr Demirtas had tweeted about his arrest before the sites were restricted.
The HDP is the second largest opposition group in parliament.
Turkey says the HDP has links to the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organisation, but the party strongly denies this.
The PKK have waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s south-east.
An HDP MP who is currently abroad, Ertugrul Kurkcu, told the BBC that the detentions were “totally unlawful”.
“This crackdown tonight is nothing to do with procedural law, criminal law, any law whatsoever or the constitution. This is an unlawful hijacking of HDP parliamentarians,” he said.
”The Turkish government is heading towards a dictatorship of Nazi style. Will the Turkish government abide by the internationally accepted standards of parliamentary democracy? This is the basic question.“
Additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press.
Prince Abdullah Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States’ response to a journalist’s question on the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, was mind-blowing to say the least.
“Will you continue to use cluster weapons in Yemen?” the reporter asked.
Al-Saud had the audacity to laugh before answering: “This is like the question, ‘Will you stop beating your wife?’”
“If anyone attacks human lives and disturbs the border, in whatever region, we’re going to continue hitting them, no matter what,” the prince added.
Interestingly, he made the audacious remarks just a few days after one of his fellow countrymen was sentenced to three days in prison for biting his wife and beating her up.
The Specialized Criminal Court in the capital city of Riyadh also sentenced the aggressor to 30 lashes in a public place, in the presence of his wife unless she decides not to be present.
Saudi Arabia, though not one of the greatest places to be a woman, has legislation protecting women, children and domestic workers against domestic abuse.
The “Protection from Abuse” law is the first of its kind in the ultra-conservative country, which has often faced international criticism for lacking laws that protect women and domestic workers against abuse.
Under the 17-article bill, those found guilty of committing psychological or physical abuse could face prison sentences of up to one year and up to 50,000 riyals ($13,300) in fines.
The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Yemen’s Houthi movement since March 2015. It wants to restore the internationally recognized president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven into exile by the supposedly Iran-allied Houthis in late 2014.
Airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition have been blamed for the majority of the estimated 10,000 deaths so far.
Laughing off either the war and its resulting devastation or an issue as serious as domestic abuse is not only insolent but also shows that the neither Kingdom nor its representatives realize the terrible depths of both the issues.