Saudi Led Coalition Commences Airstrikes in Yemen

By Max Bartels 

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East 


Sanna, Yemen

Saudi Arabia commenced air strikes in Yemen on Thursday in an attempt to halt the advances of the Houthi militia in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has gathered together a coalition of Arab nations to combat the Houthis, the Saudis are leading the coalition with 100 fighter jets, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 30 aircraft, 15 from Kuwait and Bahrain, 10 from Qatar and Jordan as well as naval support from Pakistan and Egypt. The coalition is made up of all Sunni nations, targeting the Iranian backed Shiite Houthi militia. The Saudis, as well as the other nations in the coalition are concerned about an Iranian run Shiite state on the Arabian Peninsula.

Aftermath of Saudi airstrikes against Houthi militia in Yemen. (Photo curtesy of The Independent)

Iran has expressed concern over the coalition airstrikes against the Houthi militia, claiming it further complicates an already complicated situation of internal strife. The Iranian Foreign Ministry claims the coalition attack on the Houthis will allow groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula to grow unchecked and take advantage of the chaos. The IranianForeign Ministry has also denied any military intervention in support of the Houthi militia. On the other hand, the U.S has expressed support for the Saudi led coalition, although Secretary of State Kerry has stated that the U.S will not intervene in the Yemen situation. The U.S supported the now deposed Saudi backed Yemeni government because of their support for the U.S drone strike campaign against Al Qaeda targets in Yemen. The U.S claims it will assist the coalition with intelligence sharing, targeting assistance and logistical support.

The Houthis have emerged as the dominant power in Yemen. The Sunni, Saudi backed Yemeni President Hadi was removed from power in January by the Houthis, since then the country has been in a state of chaos with differnet factions vying for power. The Saudis claim that their military operations are in support of Hadi and the legitimately elected government of Yemen. In support of these operations the Saudis have deployed 150,000 Saudi troops at the Yemen border in case a ground offense is undertaken against the Houthi militia. The Houthis claim that the coalition airstrikes into Yemen only serve to unite the people of Yemen to the Houthi cause. There is little the Houthi forces can do in response to persistent airstrikes but the militia claims that if Saudi ground forces invade they will be repulsed.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post — Saudi Arabia Launches Airstrikes in Yemen — 25 March, 2015 

Reuters — Saudi Arabia Leads Airstrikes Against Yemen’s Houthi Rebels — 26 March, 2015

CNBC — Saudi Arabia, Allies Launch Airstrikes in Yemen Against Houthi Fighters — 26 March, 2015

CNN — Saudi – Led Coalition Strikes Houthi Rebels in Yemen — 26 March, 2015

At Least 54 Colombian Girls Report Being Sexually Abused by US Military

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia–Between 2003 and 2007, according to a recently released historic document on the Colombian conflict, US soldiers and military contractors sexually abused more than 54 children in Colombia.  Allegedly, the suspects have not and will not be prosecuted due to immunity clauses in bilateral agreements.

U.S. military staff are accused of filming sexual abuse of Colombian girls and selling as pornography / Photo courtesy of telesur

The report, 800 pages in length, was commissioned by the Colombian government and rebel group FARC to establish the causes and violent agitators of the 50-year-long conflict between leftist rebels and the state while they are negotiating peace.

Officials hope that the document will help negotiators determine who is responsible for the 7 million victims or the armed conflict between leftist rebels and the state while they are negotiating peace.

One of the scholars that helped redact the historians’ report, Renan Vega of the Pedagogic University in Bogota, focused part of this historic document on the American military that has actively supported the Colombian state in its fight against drug trafficking and leftist rebel groups like the FARC.

“[T]here exists abundant information about the sexual violence, in absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials.”

One incident cited in the report was a 2004 case in the central Colombian town of Melgar where 53 underage girls were sexually abused by nearby stationed military contractors “who moreover filmed [the abuse] and sold the films as pornographic material.”

According to Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, the victims of the sexual abuse practices were forced to flee the region after their families received death threats.

The case that has called the most attention was in 2007 when a 12-year-old girl was raped by a US Army sergeant and a former US military officer who was working in Melgar as a military contractor.

Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and subsequently raped inside the military base by the officers.  The prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were flown out of the country after the news broke.

The rape victim, her little sister and her mother were forced to flee to the city of Medellin as forces loyal to the suspects were threatening the family, the mother told Colombian television.

The special envoy will possibly have to deal with the role of the US military and its members in the alleged victimization of Colombians.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – At least 54 Colombian girls sexually abused by immune US military: Report – 23 Mar. 2015

El Tiempo – Seven years of shameful impunity for girl raped in Melgar – 22 Mar. 2015

El Turbion – Impunity for soldiers Plan Colombia – 15 Feb. 2009

telesur – US Military Sexually Abused at Least 54 Colombian Children – 23 Mar. 2015

Remnants of War and Prospects for Renewed Fighting Continue to Slow Recovery in Eastern Ukraine

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – While pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine may have initially been happy when they gained control of some land, they are now facing the struggles that come with disassociating from the parent nation. Economic times are tough in rebel-held territory, and those living in Eastern Ukraine are struggling.

Fighting in parts of Eastern Ukraine, particularly near this hotel around the Donetsk airport, has caused massive destruction that pro-Russian rebels are finding difficult to recover from. (Photo courtesy of National Journal)

After losing sections of Eastern Ukraine to pro-Russian rebels, Kiev installed some cuts to the banking system and also imposed some travel restrictions. In effect, these moves have caused those already in East Ukraine to become trapped without much aid or assistance from outside, increasing the poverty issue for those in pro-Russian land. The Ukrainian military is claimed to be denying aid to the East, and the pro-Russian rebel’s People’s Republic of Donetsk has handled the need for aid by denying there is a need for it. Either way, both sides are denying aid to those in need.

Some kids living in Eastern Ukraine are also being denied school by their parents due to concerns that it is not safe. Those who remain speak about the damaged homes and loved ones who were killed in the fighting, as well as the many who have already left to move either further West or into Russia. Despite the ceasefire, fighting has yet to completely halt in Eastern Ukraine, as artillery fire reportedly hit rebel-held Donetsk on Sunday. It appears that the shelling originated near the Donetsk airport, and Ukrainian soldiers further report that small arms, 82mm mortar shells, and rocket-propelled grenades were used against government troops near the airport overnight; three people have been injured in the attacks.

Ukrainian soldiers also report small arms fire and 120mm mortar shells were fired upon them in Luhansk and near Mariupol, and further that there were nine incidents where pro-Russian rebel drones were seen in the air. NATO’s joint intelligence unit in the United Kingdom, according to U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, has also confirmed that Russia continues to send military and economic support into Eastern Ukraine for the pro-Russian rebels.

Perhaps pressured by all of this, neighboring NATO countries, particularly in the Baltics, have been very concerned over the past year that they may be next in sight for Russia. In an effort to increase pressure on Moscow and ease concerns of military takeover in other Eastern European nations, the United States is currently engages in “Operation Dragoon Ride,” which involves a parade of Strykers and the US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment riding throughout Eastern Europe.

For more information, please see:

Sky News (AU) – Artillery rocks Ukraine rebel base Donetsk – 23 March 2015

USA Today – For pro-separatist Ukrainians, hardship replaces hope – 22 March 2015

Bloomberg View – NATO Says Russia’s Still Pouring Arms Into Ukraine – 22 March 2015

RT – US military convoy parades through Eastern Europe – 22 March 2015

U.N. Investigators Sharing Reports of Syrian War Crimes with European Authorities

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – A team of United Nations Investigators have begun sharing details from their secret database on Syrian war crimes with European Authorities pursing domestic court cases. The Database contains detailed information on suspected war crimes committed in Syria during the course of the country’s Civil War which has now entered its fifth year. The move by the investigators could pave the way for the perpetrators of mass atrocities including killing and torture on all sides of the brutal conflict to be brought to justice. The goal is to go around the deadlocked United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China, which hold veto power, have prevented the cases from being referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva November 14, 2104. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the United Nations’ commission of inquiry, urged national authorities to contact the independent investigators who have compiled five confidential lists of suspected war crimes over nearly four years. Pinheiro and his team of investigators, including former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, said last month they planned to publish names of the suspected perpetrators of atrocities in Syria and push for new ways to bring them to justice, especially if the Security Council continues to fail to act.

Carla Del Ponte, who served as the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal For Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was established to investigate suspected war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s, argued that that the International Criminal Tribunal For Former Yugoslavia serves as an example of how an ad-hoc tribunal could eventually be established to bring justice to Syria. Del Ponte; “At the beginning I was for the ICC but now with the changing situation, I think an ad-hoc tribunal could be more efficient and work faster,” Del Ponte told the Guardian in an interview in Geneva. “First of all, the ICC would prosecute only three, four, five perpetrators, not more. I think an ad-hoc tribunal could prepare a list of over a hundred, like the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia … An ad-hoc tribunal could also be based near the region, facilitating access of witnesses, documentation and so on.”

The Assad Regime’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Hussam Edin Aala, dismissed the database created by the four year investigation claiming that a “biased and selective approach” was used by the United Nations investigators. He also claimed they had ignored crimes by Islamist insurgent groups. The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against Humanity throughout the civil war, which began when the regime turned its guns on peaceful protesters demanding democratic reforms.  More than 200,000 people have been killed during the Syrian Civil War which began in 2011.

For more information please see:

Al Arabiya – U.N. Investigators to Share Syria War Crimes List – 17 March 2015

The Daily Mail – UN Investigators to Share Names Of Syria War Crimes Suspects – 17 March 2015

The Guardian – Call for Special Tribunal to Investigate War Crimes and Mass Atrocities in Syria – 17 March 2015

Reuters – U.N. Investigators Sharing Syria War Crimes Findings with European Authorities – 17 March 2015

New Reports Seem to Confirm Russian Rocket Responsible for Downing MH17 over Ukraine

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – A fragment found at the crash site of MH17 has been tested and appears to have come from a Russian BUK missile.

A piece of flight MH17 being removed from the crash site. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

A Dutch journalist recovered a fragment from the July 17 crash that killed 298 people. The fragment was later tested by international forensic experts, which included defense analyst HIS Jane’s in London. Tests on the fragment show that it appears to have come from the Russian BUK missile, an anti-aircraft missile that fires from a truck to engage aircraft up to 13 miles off the ground.

Testing on fragments has revealed a low-grade steel alloy consistent with BUK missiles, and a fragment believed to have come from a warhead includes numbers that seem consistent with a serial number and a Russian alphabet letter. IHS Jane reports the warhead came from a BUK-9M317, which is the newer version of a BUK 1-2. German rocket scientists Marksu Schiller and Robert Schmucker also believe the IHS Jane report, claiming “only a Buk missile can take out the aircraft at such a height, in such a short time, and cause so much damage.”

Until this new report came out, reports merely claimed “high velocity projectiles” hit the plane but could confirm no more. Both sides continue to blame the other; Kiev and Western nations believe it was fired either by Russia or more likely pro-Russian rebels armed with a Russian missile, while Russia and pro-Russian rebels tend to claim Kiev is responsible.

Ukraine has been more stable as of late given a cease-fire that has created more peace in the country’s East than has been seen in months. There is one problem, however, as the cease-fire is contingent on both sides pulling away heavy weapons 15 to 45 miles from the front, yet reports show that both sides have failed to do so, and are actively moving heavy weapons near the front. On Wednesday, reports claim Kiev transported a tank and large-caliber gun in Avdiivka, near the front, and reports from Friday claim that two tanks and two 120mm guns were taken to the front in rebel territory near Donetsk. Lack of willingness by both sides to honor the cease-fire terms, along with reports officially linking Russia to the MH17 crash, create concerns that the cease-fire may again fall apart to renewed fighting that has already killed 6,000.

For more information, please see:

Yahoo – Confidence in Ukraine’s cease-fire hurt by arms violations – 21 March 2015

Business Insider – More proof that a Russian BUK missile shot down passenger plane MH17 – 19 March 2015

NL Times – Russian BUK Missile Took Out MH17: Dutch Forensic Researcher – 19 March 2015

Reuters – Fragment from MH17 crash site supports missile theory: Dutch TV – 19 March 2015