STATEMENTS

Cries for Saudi-led Yemen war to stop, F1 Bahrain race under fire

The fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led war on Yemen has become a focus for international efforts to bring it to an abrupt end. Yesterday tens of thousands of Yemenis marked the occasion with massive protests and rallies in several areas of the country especially the capital, Sanaa. Its leaders sounded defiant notes insisting that their country would resist the aggression and defeat the Saudi-Emirati-khalifi criminal alliance. The UK government is under pressure to stop arming the Saudis and withdraw their personnel who are aiding the aggressors. Yesterday, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry raised the stakes when she asked the government about British troops taking active role inside Yemen itself. Later she tweeted: “In the Commons today, I asked the government about weekend reports that British special forces have been involved in ‘gun battles’ in Yemen, despite repeated government statements that we are “not a party to the conflict” These queries arose after five members of the SBS (Special Boat Service) were wounded in the area of Sa’da in Northern Yemen. They were airlifted from the area but left behind many questions and theories about the nature of their work “behind enemy lines”. Some suggested that they were on a mission to assassinate senior Yemeni figures, including Abdul Malik Al Houthi, the leader of Ansarullah Movement.
Five opposition parties in Westminster have called on the UK to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia on the fourth anniversary of the Yemen civil war, saying it has contributed to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. The letter signed by leaders of the Labour party, Scottish National party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green party, comes as a fragile truce negotiated in December hangs by a thread.
Meanwhile Several US Senators have written to the Saudi monarch urging him to prosecute those responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and release jailed activists. They called for the release of Dr Walid Fetaihi, Samar Badawi, Lujain AlHathloul and other activists. The democrat Senators considered the killing of Khashoggi, the Yemen war and the detention of the political and human rights activists “acts that undermine the regional role of Riyadh”.
Saudi Arabia is on course for a record number of executions including public beheadings in 2019 despite claims kingdom is ‘modernising’. Executions are usually carried out by beheading but there also reported to have been crucifixions. The desert kingdom has already reportedly 43 people in the first three months of this year – the most recent being a Syrian man who was put to death on March 13  for smuggling amphetamine pills. If this rate continues , 172 will have been put to death by the end of the year, it was reported. The record for the number of executions carried out by Saudi Arabia was 158, according to human rights advocates Amnesty International.
As Formula 1 race gets underway in Bahrain international criticism has mounted as the organizers failed to act to stop people being persecuted as a direct result of the race. There were several demonstrations in the past few days calling for the race to be scrapped labeling it “Blood Formula”. To ensure sports events don’t contribute to human rights abuses, global businesses, and sports federations – including motor racing’s footballing equivalent, FIFA – are increasingly adopting the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This helps ensure they properly assess the human rights risks of their operations, and do not further fuel abuses. Formula One and FIA leaders should follow suit.
Twenty five NGOs have signed an open letter to the Formula One Group calling for concrete measures to safeguard human rights in Bahrain during race events. They have urged Formula One to use its substantial leverage to press Bahrain’s authorities for change. They said:  Bahrain already tried to export repression beyond its own borders this year when it sought to extradite its former national football player and torture survivor Hakeem al-Araibi from Thailand. After a global outcry the extradition bid failed, but Bahrain’s abuses are a warning flag. It is time for Formula One to adopt and implement a human rights policy. And it should start by calling for woman activist Najah Yusuf to be freed ahead of the Grand Prix race on March 31. Mrs Yousuf is serving three years sentence for campaigning against “Blood Formula”. In the past seven years several native Bahrainis were persecuted or killed for arguing against holding the race in Bahrain.
Yesterday khalifi regime ordered its courts to revoke the Bahraini nationality of six more natives. Another two un-named Bahrainis were given ten years jail sentence and stripped off their nationality. These decisions bring the total number of native Bahrainis stripped off their nationality to 845. The vast majority of them were persecuted by the khalifis for their peaceful activism in their struggle for change in the country. Regime’s courts rely on “confessions” extracted under torture for prosecution.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
27th March 2019 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)
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