Letter to UN Secretary-General Concerning Saudi Arabia's Removal from List of Armies Charged with War Crimes

published June 29, 2016 - 4:09pm

June 30, 2016

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Secretary General

We the undersigned, a group of professors in Europe and North America, are deeply alarmed to learn that the government of Saudi Arabia has coerced you to remove the military coalition led by that country in Yemen from the UN list of armies charged with war crimes in that country. According to the New York Times, you have openly admitted to reporters that you were “threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan and Syria” if you did not capitulate to Saudi demands in this regard.

The same reports indicate that your office had issued a report “on violations of children’s rights in war zones, and it cited deadly coalition attacks that had hit schools and hospitals,” but soon “the coalition was taken off the list, after lobbying by Saudi Arabia and some of its wealthiest allies who help finance United Nations humanitarian operations.”

We are, sir, aghast at the brazen vulgarity of power that a single ruling family in one member state can assert against the entirety of the UN to prevent it from documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This in fact is the second time in a year that your office has reversed course by openly removing the name of a state charged with war crimes from such lists. Last year under US and Israeli pressure you removed Israel from a similar list of violent states freely maiming and murdering children without any repercussions.

The UN is not the first or the only international entity to charge Saudi Arabia with such crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International has also reported: “Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces have carried out a series of air strikes targeting schools that were still in use, in violation of international humanitarian law, and hampering access to education for thousands of Yemen’s children.”

On its most recent mission to northern Yemen, Amnesty International has found “evidence of US, UK and Brazilian cluster munitions used by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces. The use of cluster bombs is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”

Such egregious violations of the human rights of a beleaguered nation by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, aided and abetted by the US and the UK, make a mockery of the sovereignty of nations, of international humanitarian conventions, of the rule of law, and above all of the rule of reason and sanity.

If not the UN then what international body has the duty of documenting such criminal offenses? If not the UN then who should hold Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners accountable for such war crimes?

Withholding of humanitarian aid to the UN for political gain is an affront to the very logic of cooperation among the community of nations and should be condemned as such by the entirety of the civilized world.

We the undersigned hold the UN chiefly responsible for continuing to document such barbaric violations of children’s safety and security by Saudi Arabia in Yemen or by any other member state anywhere else in the world.

The ruling Saudi regime obviously knows how to use its wealth to manipulate dysfunctional international bodies such as the UN. However, in the eyes of the global community it stands charged with overwhelming evidence of war crimes and of fundamental human indecency.

Your open and public confession, Mr. Moon, to have been forced to pander to Saudi power and wealth is the most damning indictment both against the staggering incompetence of UN and the wanton cruelty of Saudi Arabia, which is literally getting away with mass murder and an assortment of atrocities in a neighboring sovereign nation-state.

1.     Khaled Abou El Fadl, University of California, Los Angeles
2.     Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
3.     Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University
4.     Moonier Arbach, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Paris
5.     Geneviève Bédoucha, CNRS, Paris
6.     Peter Beinart, City University of New York
7.     Naor Ben-Yehoyada, University of Cambridge
8.     Isa Blumi, Stockholm University
9.     Laurent Bonnefoy, Sciences Politiques, Paris
10.  François Burgat, IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence, France
11.  Robert Burrowes, University of Washington
12.  Sheila Carapico, University of Richmond
13.  Steven Caton, Harvard University
14.  Don Conway-Long, Webster University
15.  Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
16.  Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
17.  Rochelle Davis, Georgetown University
18.  Blandine Destremau, CNRS, EHESS, Paris
19.  Paul Dresch, University of Oxford
20.  Kaveh Ehsani, DePaul University
21.  Richard Falk, Princeton University (emeritus) 
22.  Mark Gasiorowski, Tulane University
23.  McGuire Gibson, University of Chicago
24.  Michael Gilsenan, New York University
25.  Andre Gingrich, Austrian Academy of Sciences
26.  Ali Ghodsi, University of Waterloo, Canada
27.  Ahmad Hadavi, Northwestern University
28.  Najam Haider, Barnard College, Columbia University
29.  Wael Hallaq, Columbia University
30.  Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
31.  Mary Hegland, Santa Clara University
32.  Juliette Honvault, IREMAM, Aix-Marseille Université, France
33.  Erik Hovden, Institute for Social Anthropology, Vienna
34.  Hossein Kamaly, Barnard College, Columbia University
35.  Mohsen Kadivar, Duke University
36.  Lamya Khalidi, CEPAM, CNRS, France
37.  Haider A. Khan, University of Denver
38.  Laurie King, Georgetown University
39.  Thomas Kuehn, Simon Fraser University
40.  Ahmet T. Kuru, San Diego State University
41.  Jean Lambert, CERMOM-INALCO, Paris
42.  Miriam Lowi, College of New Jersey
43.  Mojtaba Mahdavi, University of Alberta, Canada
44.  Elham Manea, University of Zurich
45.  Hamid Mavani, Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School
46.  Anne Meneley, Trent University
47.  Brinkley Messick, Columbia University
48.  W. Flagg Miller, University of California, Davis
49.  Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University
50.  Annie Montigny, MNHN-Musée de l’Homme, France
51.  Norma Claire Moruzzi, University of Illinois, Chicago
52.  Mehdi Noorbakhsh, Harrisburg University
53.  Misagh Parsa, Dartmouth College
54.  Vijay Prasad, Trinity College
55.  Babak Rahimi, University of California, San Diego
56.  Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College
57.  Mahmoud Sadri, Texas Woman’s University
58.  Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California
59.  Christa Salamandra, Lehman College, City University of New York
60.  Aseel Sawalha, Fordham University
61.  Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College, City University of New York
62.  Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, CNRS, LLACAN-INALCO, France
63.  Emilio Spadola, Colgate University
64.  Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University
65.  Roman Stadnicki, University of Tours
66.  Lucine Taminian, Independent scholar, Amman
67.  Mahdi Tourage, King's University College at Western University
68.  Peyman Vahabzadeh, University of Victoria, Canada
69.  Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania
70.  Janet Watson, University of Leeds
71.  John Willis, University of Colorado
72.  Jessica Winegar, Northwestern University
73.  Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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