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UN’s ‘credibility at risk’ with one-sided Yemen reports

KSRelief officials distribute aid packets among the needy in Yemen. (SPA)
JEDDAH: The UN is rapidly losing its credibility because of what experts say are its one-sided and questionable reports on the situation in Yemen.
“The problem is simple: The Houthis form only 2 to 3 percent of the Yemeni population, and yet these Iranian-supported militias are holding the entire country hostage at the point of a gun,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News.
“The UN and the world community have become silent spectators to the crimes being committed by the Houthis and the mercenaries of (ousted President) Ali Abdullah Saleh,” he said.
He reminded the UN that Resolution 2216 is very clear. “It calls for three specific things: That Houthis should end the illegitimate occupation of Sanaa and other cities and return to where they came from; that they should hand over their weapons; and that they should become part of the political solution,” said Al-Shehri.
None of these conditions have been met, he said. “And the only countries trying to enforce the UN mandate are the Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia. And it is the Arab coalition that is being blamed by the UN.
“The UN and the world community have become silent spectators,” he said, pointing out that the Houthis have waged war against the Yemeni state six times in the past. “That is a criminal record in itself.”
He blamed the human rights organizations affiliated to the UN for overlooking basic facts: “The Houthis are the aggressors. They have been armed by Iran. The situation in Houthi-occupied areas is dire. The Houthis have forced children into the fighting. They are using extortion because they hold all the levers of power. There is no way to find out the atrocities that they have committed in areas under their rule because those areas are inaccessible to UN personnel and human rights organizations.”
Al-Shehri said it was a travesty that the UN was depending on reports written by the Houthis themselves. “How can the UN and its affiliate bodies rely on one-sided reports? This defies logic; it is unfathomable. The UN should depend on information provided by the legitimate and internationally recognized government of Yemen,” he said.
The UN was established primarily to support peace and security but the general perception is that since its inception, it has failed to make any positive breakthroughs on Arab and Islamic issues and even on some international conflicts.
“It plays the role of spectator and also plays a major role in breaking the rules and standards for which it was established,” said Al-Shehri.
When António Guterres took over as secretary-general, the UN witnessed a decline, and the organization became a hostage to false propaganda, said one veteran observer.
“The performance and effectiveness of the UN since Guterres assumed his duties has become weak and shaky and shown an inability to restore the prestige of the UN,” he said. “Guterres plunged the UN into a state of confusion and defeatism because of his failures in addressing a number of issues, first and foremost the Yemeni crisis on the basis of UN Resolution 2216, which adopted the Gulf initiative and the outcome of Yemeni National Dialogue as references in order to resolve the crisis.”
According to him, the Yemenis have been suspicious of the UN since the “floundering performance” of its Yemeni envoy, Jamal Benomar, who was succeeded by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed who interacted behind the scenes with the Houthi militias and the mercenaries of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“When the Kingdom moved toward supporting the internationally recognized legitimate government in Yemen through Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Restoring Hope, that was in response to the official request by the legitimate government of Yemen, which enjoys the support of the UN in accordance with Resolution 2216,” he said.
He said the UN kept ignoring the legitimate government in Yemen and showed no interest in the areas under the control of the Yemeni government. In fact, the UN has not carried out any visits to Aden. “On the other hand, UN officials continued dealing effectively and continuously with the coup plotters and cooperated with their institutions in the delivery of assistance; cooperation was included with the Yemeni Ministry of Education, a subsidiary of the Houthi militias and Saleh,” he said.
He said reports of the human rights organizations did not deal specifically with the problems and dangers of land mines, the recruitment of children, checkpoints that hinder the passage of aid, the protection of unarmed civilians, the bombing of the houses of individuals opposing the Houthis and Saleh, the arrests of journalists and violations in Sanaa prisons, especially the central prison, and the presence of militias in hospitals and schools.
“The criteria adopted by other non-UN organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross are more transparent than those of the UN-affiliated non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” said the observer.
He pointed out that the UN was contracting with transport companies belonging to the pro-coup traders in Sanaa and the dispatch of humanitarian aid without the presence of international observers resulting in the lack of confirmation of delivery plus silence on Houthi violations out of fear that the UN representatives would be expelled from Sanaa.
“They are not conducting inspection tours of the besieged and legitimate areas by periodic visits to Saada and the areas controlled by the coup plotters,” he said. “Only Taiz was visited a year ago and that only lasted a few hours and the media momentum did not match the level of the visit.”
“The silence about the violations taking place in the port of Hodeidah and the bargaining of the coup traders on the goods before arrival to the port, which led to an increase in the prices and the creation of a black market of oil derivatives and also to the aggravation of the humanitarian crisis in the absence of international accountability, and the claim that the port is the artery of Yemen’s economy without focusing on the practices of coup traders on the platforms of the port which fund the military coup.”
He said the UN NGOs only highlight the suffering of families in the areas under Houthi control and claim it is caused by the coalition without highlighting the real causes resulting from the practices of the coup.
“This shows the selectivity of civil society organizations cooperating with UN bodies which concentrate their efforts only on Sanaa and ignore Aden,” he said.
It was pointed out that allowing people who have no diplomatic or relief status onboard UN aircraft is a blatant violation of the privilege granted by the Non-Search and Facilitation Alliance for relief aircraft, while UN Security Council Resolution 2216 provides for the facilitation of the passage of UN personnel only while other individuals can enter onboard commercial flights.
Raghida Dergham, the well-known journalist who has covered the UN for nearly 40 years, said there had always been questions about how these human rights reports are written. “The way the material is gathered for the report, because of the lack of access to UN personnel and their questionable ways for ascertaining what has taken place,” she told Arab News from Washington. “The fact that they (UN personnel) cannot reach all the places ... in that sense you could say there is some sort of bias.”
She added: “Yes, I would say the bias is clear when they focus on Yemen but not on Syria and what the Russians are doing there. Or what the Iranians have been doing in Syria. (When it comes to Russia and Iran), the UN Secretariat looks very frightened. They are afraid to touch the big guy. Why not the same kind of outrage when children are killed in Syria? That is where the bias is.”

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