On Yemen, UN's Ban on IDP Airstrikes & Hospital Shelling, Silent on Aid Blockade
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 2, 2015, with video -- Amid complaints by Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross that they can't get medical aid into Yemen, Inner City Press on March 31 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq who in the UN is raising the issue to the Saudi-led coalition. The answer was UNclear. Video here.
Later on March 31, the UN issued a belated statement by Ban Ki-moon about the airstrikes on an IDP camp in northern Yemen, "balanced" by criticism of shelling of hospitals in the south, with no mention of the aid blockade:
"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over reports of numerous civilian casualties resulting from ongoing military operations in Yemen, including an airstrike on 30 March on the Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons in Harad, in the north of Yemen, and attacks against several hospitals in Dhale, in the south of the country. These attacks left dozens dead and injured, among them children.
"The Secretary-General reminds all parties involved in military operations in Yemen of their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians. This includes the strict adherence to the principles of proportionality, distinction, and precaution. He also stresses that hospitals and other medical installations have a special protected status under international law.
"The Secretary-General reiterates his firm belief in the necessity to resolve the conflict through peaceful means."
So what is Ban Ki-moon saying to the Saudis? Watch this site.
On March 31, Doctors Without Borders / MSF said "the closure of all the international airports in Sana'a, Aden, and Hodeida, and heavy restrictions on the seaports, are hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance."
On March 30 came reports of an airstrike on an internally displaced persons camp in Haradh. Inner City Press immediately sought confirmation (and comment) from the UN, and then from the US State Department.
From the State Department transcript:
Inner City Press: about Yemen. There’s this report of an IDP camp in northern Yemen called Haradh that was hit, and MSF said that several dozen people were killed by an airstrike. And I wanted – last week, Jeff Rathke said that the U.S. couldn’t corroborate casualties. But does the U.S. have anything to say about the way in which the campaign is being waged and safeguards that should be in place? And do you – is there any – do you see the situation moving closer toward resuming dialogue between Houthis and Hadi, or further away?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly the goal, right, to get on a path back to political dialogue. So even through the military action that we’re supporting, that is the goal. I think it’s a challenge at the moment given the Houthis’ actions, quite frankly, but we’re trying.
I just saw the report before I got on the phone about the IDP camp, so let me look into that and see if there’s more we can share. I just don’t know the facts on it. But in every conflict, we’ve always been clear that all sides should avoid civilian casualties. That’s certainly – I mean, it’s important for us. We’ve called on all sides in conflicts, including here, to take feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians, so that’s obviously important to us. But let me check on the specifics and see if we can anything back to you after the briefing.
Later on March 30, a US State Department official made this response to Inner City Press, on background:
"We have seen the media reports regarding the attack on the Mazraq camp for internally displaced Yemenis, which reportedly left over 20 individuals dead. We cannot confirm details of the attack. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims. The loss of civilian life in any conflict is tragic.
"We call upon all sides in Yemen to comply with international humanitarian law, including the obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians."