The Government maintains the plan to deliver warships to Saudi Arabia despite the serious escalation of violence in Yemen

The first month of 2022 closes in the worst possible way in devastated Yemen. Death once again wins over any hint of peace in that country, a scenario chosen by Saudi Arabia to keep alive the flame of a war that will be seven years old in March and that accumulates more and more deaths. Despite the tragic January that is ending, the Government continues to believe that there is nothing to prevent the sending of a warship, the first of five, to the Saudi regime.

Nothing seems to stop Al Jubail, the first of the corvettes built by Navanty in the shipyard of San Fernando (Cádiz) commissioned by Saudi Arabia. The Spanish public company plans to deliver this vessel at the end of March, thus advancing the schedule agreed with the authorities of that country.

The delivery of the warship must previously have the authorization of the Government, something that in the offices of Amnesty International (AI) in Spain they do not overlook. The human rights organization has asked the Executive if he has already signed said authorization, but so far there has been no response.

It is not the first time that AI has addressed the Government to warn it of the humanitarian risks that an operation of this type entails. Last December, the NGO requested in writing to the Interministerial Board that regulates the sale of weapons that would condition the export of ships to the “application of firm and verifiable guarantees by independent means that ensure that the corvettes are not used to commit crimes under international law”.

Similarly, AI requested that the operation not be carried out while “arbitrary and deliberate attacks against the civilian population and civilian objects” continue and the naval and air blockade against Yemen. In fact, the human rights organization then called for the creation of a Working Group “on the conversion of the defense industry to mitigate the economic impact of this decision.”

Nothing of that has happened. Last Friday, January 21, an air attack attributed to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia against a detention center in the Yemeni town of saada left at least 90 dead, including migrants from African countries.

A nurse treats Muhammad al-Khulaidi, injured in air strikes on a detention center, in Saada, Yemen. naif rahma / REUTERS

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundbergwarned four days later about “the growing spiral of violence in Yemen that continues to harm the civilian population and is overflowing its borders.”

“The month of January is almost certain to break the record for civilian casualties in Yemen,” Grundberg said in a statement. In this regard, he describes the attack on the detention center as “the worst incident with civilian casualties in Yemen in three years.”

With these alarming data on the table, AI considers it inconceivable that the first corvette will be sent. “The situation has worsened significantly since Saudi Arabia forced the end of the mandate of the only international mechanism tasked with investigating human rights abuses in Yemen,” he says. Alberto EstevezAI spokesperson on arms trade.

Last December, AI claimed to the UN General Assembly the creation of “an investigative mechanism to collect and safeguard evidence of serious human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war in Yemen.” “Already then we warned that inaction would be giving the green light to the commission of new abuses and war crimes,” said the Amnesty spokesman.

According to data published on January 17 by Yemen Data ProjectDecember 2021 saw the highest monthly rate of air raids (250) since June 2020. “At least 70 civilians were killed in coalition bombing last year. During 2021, the Saudi-led coalition conducted carry out an average of 5 air strikes a day,” recalls Estévez.

war crimes

On January 6, the independent Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana for Human Rights released its report on the human rights situation in Yemen in 2021, documenting 839 incidents of harm to civilians and civilian objects in which more than 782 civilians were killed and injured.

The report highlights the escalation of violence in Marib, noting that the warring parties “have killed and injured civilians and have practiced arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture.” “Many of these violations may constitute war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law,” says Estevez.

For these reasons, he believes that the delivery of the corvette scheduled for the end of March “could not be worse, coinciding with an unprecedented worsening of the conflict.”

Between January 2015 and June 2021, Spain authorized arms exports to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for an amount that exceeded 2,300 million euros. The operations have been severely questioned by different human rights organizations, which warn about the possible complicity of the Spanish authorities with the commission of war crimes.

For its part, the Government has repeatedly defended the validity of these exports, while arguing that the exported weapons have not been used to commit human rights violations. In any case, the minutes of the Interministerial Board that is responsible for authorizing exports are secret, which prevents knowing essential data on those sales.


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