Tue 15 Mar 2016: Mustaba, Yemen 120 dead in Saudi airstrike

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Tue 15 Mar 2016: Mustaba, Yemen 120 dead in Saudi airstrike

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Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:07pm EDT Related: WORLD, UNITED NATIONS, YEMEN
U.N. says Saudi-led bombing of Yemen market may be international crime
GENEVA/RIYADH | BY STEPHANIE NEBEHAY AND ANGUS MCDOWALL
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen ... SKCN0WK152

United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein arrives for the 31st session of the Human Rights Council at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein arrives for the 31st session of the Human Rights Council at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 29, 2016.
REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen may be responsible for "international crimes", a category that includes war crimes and crimes against humanity, the top U.N. human rights official said on Friday.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned an air strike in Yemen this week and added that the coalition was "responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together".

More than 6,000 people have been killed since the coalition campaign began a year ago to fight Iranian-allied Houthis and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh and to restore the president they ousted, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri said on Friday major combat operations were less extensive than earlier in the war and there were "good signs" the U.N. might soon restart peace talks between warring Yemeni factions.

Houthi officials traveled to Saudi Arabia this month for secret talks on the conflict that led to a pause in fighting on the border, a main battlefront of the war, and a prisoner exchange.

Asseri said that despite those "positive signs", any formal peace talks would have to be carried out by Hadi's internationally recognized government, not by Saudi Arabia, and under a U.N. umbrella.

Tuesday's strike near Mustaba in northwest Yemen hit an outdoor market and killed more than 100, a provincial health director and a U.N. official in Sanaa said, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the war.

"These awful incidents continue to occur with unacceptable regularity. In addition, despite public promises to investigate such incidents, we have yet to see progress in any such investigations," Zeid said in a statement.

"We are possibly looking at the commission of international crimes by members of the Coalition," Zeid said. International crimes includes war crimes, crimes against humanity and grave violations of human rights.

Saudi Arabia enjoys diplomatic backing and military help from the United States and other Western powers for its campaign in Yemen.

The Obama administration is "deeply concerned by the devastating toll of the crisis in Yemen," a senior official said. It is urging all sides to comply with international humanitarian law and to minimize harm to civilians by taking steps including not positioning armaments or military equipment in places where civilians are known to gather.

HOUTHI ATTACKS CONDEMNED

Asseri urged the U.N. not to collect its information from those, like the provincial health director, employed by the Houthi-controlled administration in Sanaa.

"We use the information coming from the (pro-Hadi) Yemeni army because they are on the ground. The attack was under the control of the Yemeni army. It gave the target," Asseri said in a phone interview.

He forwarded a graphic prepared by Hadi's government that said the target of the air strike was a military area where Houthi forces had gathered and that "they deceived people by saying it was a market".

A statement issued on Friday by Hadi's government said it had formed a committee to look into the bombing and whether it was the result of an air strike or of shelling by the Houthis, whom it accused of often blaming the coalition for attacks they carried out themselves.

But Zeid's staff who visited the site of Tuesday's deadly strike and interviewed witnesses at al-Khamees market "found no evidence of any armed confrontation or significant military objects in the area at the time of the attack", Zeid said.

Coalition strikes "have hit markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties – and hundreds of private residences," he added. There were 24 children among the 106 reported dead at Mustaba.

Zeid also condemned indiscriminate ground attacks carried out by the Houthis and their allies which have killed civilians, saying these may also amount to international crimes.

Asseri told Reuters: "Today, we have less of what in military science we call major combat, where we use a lot of forces. Today, most of the forces are in the phase of stabilizing," he said, adding that military operations continued, particularly near Sanaa.

The pause in fighting on the border, and the breaking of a Houthi siege on the city of Taiz in the south, both mediated with the help of local tribes, was part of a wider effort to reinvigorate the political process, he said.

"When you increase the political process you decrease the military one to give the opportunity to talk. Today we want to give the ability to encourage and relaunch again the talks to come up with a political solution," he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Angus McDowall, additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Andrew Roche, Bernard Orr)
Last edited by TonyGosling on Mon Apr 04, 2016 1:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by TonyGosling »

So what's the Saudi Arabian response?
Throw money at the PR problem
http://www.911forum.org.uk/board/viewto ... 254#172254
TonyGosling wrote:Saudi Arabia Continues Hiring Spree of Lobbyists, Retains Former Washington Post Reporter

Lee Fang
Mar. 21 2016, 3:16 p.m.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is adding more American lobbyists to its payroll by hiring BGR Government Affairs, a company founded by former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour, according to filings disclosed last week.

The contract provides BGR with $500,000 annually to assist with U.S. media outreach for the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, a government entity. The retainer includes the services of Jeffrey Birnbaum, a former Washington Post reporter who once covered the lobbying industry and now works as a lobbyist, as well as Ed Rogers, a former Reagan administration official who now lobbies and writes a column for the Post called “PostPartisan.”

The contract is the latest in a buildup over the last two years.

As The Intercept has previously reported, the Saudi government has brought on a dizzying array of American public relations experts and lobbyists to help spin reporters and influence policymakers. Since 2014, the regime has paid the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm run by a top fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton campaign; Norm Coleman, the former GOP senator who leads a major Republican Super PAC; H.P. Goldfield, a lobbyist with the law firm Hogan Lovells and vice chair of Madeleine Albright’s Albright Stonebridge Group; the public relations powerhouse Edelman; Targeted Victory, a consulting firm founded by former aides to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign; as well as two major law firms with a lengthy roster of former government officials on its payroll, DLA Piper and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

Saudi fees to Qorvis, its longstanding lobbying firm, have increased dramatically. Last year, Qorvis billed the Saudi Embassy $7 million for its semi-annual filing, more than twice the amount charged the previous reporting cycle.

Just last week, Al Arabiya, an English-language news outlet financially supported by members of the Saudi royal family, announced the creation of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, yet another newly minted media and lobbying campaign on behalf of Saudi interests in the United States.

The money spent on lobbying has been used to counter growing controversies surrounding the kingdom. When Nimr al-Nimr, a peaceful government critic, was executed in January, the Podesta Group helped the regime shape media coverage, providing a quote to the New York Times to smear Nimr as a “terrorist.” Other American consultants working for the Saudi Embassy used social media and other efforts to attack Nimr and justify the execution.

The kingdom has relied on its media and lobbying apparatus to combat criticism of its human rights record, including the growing rate of executions and beheadings. The influence also extends to promotion of Saudi Arabia’s controversial role in the Middle East, including the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen and the country’s failure to address private financiers of radical Islamic groups such as ISIS.

The Saudi kingdom may be concerned with another round of potential controversies. This week, a new documentary, Saudi Arabia Uncovered, is set to air, revealing hidden camera footage of public beheadings, Saudi religious police beating women in the streets, the destruction of musical instruments (playing music in public is strictly prohibited), and children in Saudi schools being taught to hate Jews, Christians, and Shiite Muslims. In April, President Barack Obama is set to visit the country to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit.

https://theintercept.com/2016/03/21/sau ... -reporter/
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