At UN General Assembly, Saudi Foreign Minister seeks to Whitewash Yemen War

26 September 2017 – On Saturday, 23 September, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, delivered remarks at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York. Addressing the war in Yemen, he deflected blame for the conflict’s devastating civilian death toll and ignored Saudi Arabia and its coalition’s own actions. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns al-Jubeir’s misleading comments and calls for an independent international inquiry into abuses in Yemen that will hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its role in violating human rights.

In his remarks, al-Jubeir announced that Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners intervened in the Yemen conflict in order to establish peace and security and assist the government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Al-Jubeir defended Saudi Arabia’s involvement, stating that the “action was not a choice;” casting it as a necessity in order “to ensure [Yemen’s] independence and territorial integrity.” In his comments, Al-Jubeir obliquely acknowledged the vast human toll of the conflict, saying that Saudi Arabia is aware of the scope of the crisis and will “spare nothing” to help the Yemeni people, going so far as to provide aid in excess of 8 billion dollars.

Since Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners entered the conflict in Yemen in March 2015, over 13,000 civilians have been killed. In addition, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have devastated critical infrastructure around the country, including hospitals, water treatment plants, and cranes at the critical Hodeida sea port. The destruction of this infrastructure, on top of Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen, has severely complicated and restricted the importing of food and medicine. As a result, Yemen is seeing an outbreak of cholera that is affecting half a million, while 20.7 million Yemenis – including 11 million children – are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB: “Adel al-Jubeir’s comments are typical of Saudi Arabia’s talking points on Yemen: misleading and focusing on all parties to the conflict but themselves. The Saudi government regularly accuses the Houthi-Saleh forces of committing human rights abuses, while ignoring their own role in similar violations. But Saudi Arabia’s hands are not clean: since the coalition intervention, the conflict has killed over 13,000 civilians and devastated whole cities and communities, while also leading to a man-made famine and a cholera outbreak. Saudi Arabia’s refusal to admit its role in the conflict will only prolong the suffering of the Yemeni people, who the kingdom claims to want to help.”

Al-Jubeir’s statement seeks to absolve Saudi Arabia of its part in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the creation of a dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen. ADHRB rejects these misleading remarks and calls on the international community to establish an independent international inquiry to examine rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict, including Saudi Arabia.