A rights group has filed a case against the UK government for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, emphasising that the weapons are escalating a major political crisis in war-torn Yemen.
The UK’s High Court has started hearing the case initiated by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which stresses that the weapons exports have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians in Yemen.
CAAT is challenging the legality of a decision taken by the British government in 2020 to continue exporting weapons to the Saudi-led coalition which is embroiled in a nine-year war in Yemen.
It is true that the weapons sold by Western nations including the United Kingdom and the US are responsible for many innocent deaths. In fact, an Oxfam report uncovered that munitions killed at least 87, and wounded 136 in just over a year.
The US is the biggest supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UK is the second-largest. The report also emphasised that the weapons supplied solely by them have been used in hundreds of attacks on civilians in Yemen between January 2021 and the end of February 2022.
West’s double standards
The US and the UK are responsible for grave human rights abuses in Yemen. Their neglect of human suffering exhibits a shameless desire for profits. However, ironically when it comes to the issue of human rights, Western countries often act like experts.
We know from history that the US and Europe go after those sovereign nations which refuse to accept their hegemonic presence in the geopolitical arena and falsely accuse them of human rights violations in order to justify the imposition of sanctions on them.
The US has done that with Russia many times. The Biden administration falsely accused Moscow of human rights violations in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
The report noted without evidence that the Russian government perpetrated human rights abuses in Crimea, and Chechnya and even stated that Putin’s regime was behind the attempted assassination of opposition politician Alexey Navalny.
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Similarly, the US condemned China for its systematic violation of the political and civil rights of minority communities in Xinjiang province and Tibet. The Biden administration also emphasised that it will work with its allies and partners to hold Beijing accountable for its gruesome actions which amount to crimes against humanity.
They followed suit in the case of Myanmar as well, with the UK government accusing the military junta of serious human rights abuses. Later, London announced asset freezes and travel bans on three generals in the Burmese military and Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, noted that he will hold the Myanmars’s military accountable.
Will the West be held accountable for their crimes?
But what about the human rights abuses perpetrated by Western nations around the world? Why do the US and UK never get sanctioned for war crimes in Middle Eastern, African and Asian nations?
The US is responsible for grave crimes against humanity in Syria and Iraq. In fact, a top-secret military force repeatedly killed civilians and committed war crimes in Iraq and Syria. The military unit, known secretly as Talon Anvil, was deployed in war-torn Middle Eastern nations from 2014-2019. A former staffer of Talon Anvil broke the codes of secrecy and told journalists at The New York Times that American soldiers used to disregard laws created to protect civilians during conflict.
The US followed the same deplorable pattern in Vietnam. American soldiers committed one of the most reprehensible crimes in the world known as the My Lai Massacre. My Lai is a village in Vietnam which was targeted by American soldiers in 1968, during the war. The US troops opened fire on an unarmed civilian population, killing thousands of women, children and the elderly. The higher military officials even tried to cover up the crime but failed.
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Similarly, in the two-decades-long Afghanistan war, the US and its allies perpetrated countless atrocities. In fact, in November 2020, a war crimes inquiry found that the Australian Special Forces had killed around 39 unarmed civilians and detainees.
The UK, which is always standing beside the US when it sanctions other nations, also committed serious crimes in Iraq. There is widespread evidence that British soldiers were involved in rape, torture, and sexual violence in Iraq.
However, despite ample evidence of the guilt of Western nations, the US, the UK and their allies never got punished for their crimes. They are never held accountable in the ICJ for their acts of violence which snatched thousands of futures. The victims and families of the crimes committed by US and UK soldiers are still waiting for justice.
Therefore, the West has absolutely no moral justification and right to condemn other countries in the name of human rights when their own track record is so deplorable. It is also unfortunate that there are countries like Iran and Cuba whose economic, diplomatic and political interests have been damaged due to Western sanctions imposed on the justification of crimes against humanity by the US and its allies. This begs the question: should the international rules-based order be changed?
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