It is still not too late for Canada to do the right thing in Yemen and Venezuela

U.S. Congress votes to end USA role in Yemen war

The U.S. House of Representatives on 4 April 2019 gave final passage to a bipartisan resolution forcing an end to United States military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

“The vote in the Senate and in the House makes it clear that the United States will not continue to follow the despotic, anti-democratic leadership coming out of Saudi Arabia,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and one of the lead sponsors of the resolution. “The United States should not be led into a war by a despotic, undemocratic, murderous regime.”

See: U.S. role in Yemen War Will End Unless Trump Issues Second Veto (Catie Edmondson, nytimes.com, 4 April 2019).

See also: Congress passes historic resolution to end US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen (Tara Golshan, vox.com. 4 April 2019).

And for an in-depth update on the challenges facing the Yemeni peace negotiators, see: Crisis Group Yemen Update #8 (crisisgroup.org, 5 April 2019):

Bottom Line: Yemen’s war is complex and multifaceted…. De-escalating the conflict… requires the UN… not only to reach an agreement between the Huthis and their adversaries, but also to achieve a compromise within the anti-Huthi front, namely between Islah, the Hadi government and UAE-backed groups.

Germany extends its Saudi arms ban while the UK refuses to impose one

Citing the lack of progress in implementation of the peace plan, and despite continuing intense pressure from the UK and France, as well as tensions within its own governing coalition, Germany extended its ban on military exports to Saudi Arabia for another six months.

Meanwhile, a withering documentary on UK’s public Channel 4, Britain’s Hidden War, exposes the key role that the UK is playing in the brutal Yemen conflict:

A former Saudi Air Force officer stated flatly that his compatriots “can’t keep the Typhoon in the air without the British”, and that, although US-supplied jets also play an indispensable role, the British Typhoon is so crucial that “without the Typhoon they will stop the war”.

Yet the UK government, paralyzed by the Brexit fiasco and desperate to maintain international trading partners, still does nothing to stop the flow of UK arms.

For an anguished commentary on Britain’s role in helping to create the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, see: Britain could stop the war in Yemen in days. But it won’t. (David Wearing, guardian.com, 3 April 2019).

Whither Canada?

While an end to the export of Canadian LAVs and other military goods to Saudi Arabia would not have the definitive impact of a UK ban, there is no doubt that it would help degrade the Saudi ability to wage war. This, in turn, would heighten the pressure to engage more fully in the struggling peace process.

Another major difference from the UK is that Canada’s war role still remains largely hidden from public view, with Canadian media coverage of Yemen, and the unspeakable humanitarian disaster that continues to worsen there, almost never referencing the role of Canadian armaments. One welcome exception we have previously noted is Martin Lukacs’ exposé in the National Observer: Is Saudi Arabia deploying Canadian-made weapons in Yemen? (30 November 2018).

More recently, American Professor Shireen Al-Adeimi had this to say about Canada’s ongoing role:

When they look back, however, they will find countless countries who are responsible for destroying Yemen: Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and others who actively participated in the killing and starving of Yemeni civilians. They will also find countries like Canada, which profited from the war even as they occasionally uttered concerns for the loss of human life they helped end with the weapons they sold.

For the full article, see: As War on Yemen Hits the 4-year Mark, Here’s a Brief History of U.S. Involvement (Shireen Al-Adeimi, inthesetimes.com, 25 March 2019).

We end our update on Canada’s unconscionable role in prolonging the Yemen conflict with this appeal from RI President Peggy Mason:

It is not too late for Canada to do the right thing. Further to the Civil Society Open Letter fromof 4 Mar, we again call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately suspend all arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

2019).

Update on Venezuela

We begin with an extremely important statement from a human rights expert in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the terrible impact on ordinary Venezuelans of the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the USA. Note that this independent  UN office is not to be confused with the UN Human Rights Council, comprised of 47 member states, elected for a 3-year period.

The statement begins:

GENEVA (31 January 2019) – Sanctions which can lead to starvation and medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela, says UN human rights expert Idriss Jazairy. His comments follow the imposition of sanctions on Venezuela’s national oil company by the United States.

I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government of Venezuela,” said Mr. Jazairy, the UN Special Rapporteur concerned with the negative impact of sanctions.

For the full statement, see: Venezuela sanctions harm human rights of innocent people, UN expert warns (ohchr.org, 31 Jan 2019)

Next we turn to a recent damning analysis by award-winning journalist, John Pilger in: The War on Venezuela is Built on Lies ( consortiumnews.com, 22 Feb 2019) Included in his trenchant critique is an examination of what Pilger terms “overwhelming bias” in BBC’s reporting:

Researchers at the University of the West of England studied the BBC‘s reporting of Venezuela over a 10-year period. They looked at 304 reports and found that only three of these referred to any of the positive policies of the government. For the BBC, Venezuela’s democratic record, human rights legislation, food programs, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen.  The greatest literacy program in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.

To review the Canadian Civil Society Statement of Concern over Canadian policy toward Venezuela, click: Statement of Concern on the crisis in Venezuela (28 Mar 2019).

We reiterate the call in that statement for Canada to abandon its current policy, which is in flagrant violation of international law, in favour of impartial efforts to promote dialogue, mediation and negotiations in Venezuela.

Photo credit: Front page: UN OCHA; Blog page: David Felton

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