There is a particularly brutal war happening in Yemen in the Middle East. Yemen is next door to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Government has taken a keen interest in doing what it can to affect the result of the war.
The Guardian has this recent description of the war:
The war has killed more than 100,000 people, destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, subjected large swathes of the population to famine and generated the worst cholera outbreak since modern records began. All parties to the war have likely committed violations of international law.
In December 2018 the UN supported a ceasefire so that the damage to local people could be minimised:
A UK-drafted resolution supporting the ceasefire, agreed in Stockholm, was adopted on Friday afternoon, the first UN resolution on Yemen in more than three years.
The news was welcomed by aid agencies. “Today, at last, the council has taken a much needed step to respond to the urgency of the humanitarian disaster as well as the international community’s growing outrage and desire to put an end to the brutal war in Yemen,” said Frank McManus, Yemen country director for the International Rescue Committee.
“With more than 20 million Yemenis facing severe hunger, and 10 million on the brink of famine, it is imperative the agreements reached in Sweden are implemented effective immediately, and all parties to the conflict commit to further talks in January.”
In 2019 the English Court of Appeal castigated the UK Government for providing support to the Saudi Government. Again from the Guardian:
British arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been ruled unlawful by the court of appeal in a critical judgment that also accused ministers of ignoring whether airstrikes that killed civilians in Yemen broke humanitarian law.
Three judges said that a decision made in secret in 2016 had led them to decide that Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox and other key ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians.
Sir Terence Etherton, the master of the rolls, said on Tuesday that ministers had “made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so”.
As a result, the court said that the UK export licensing process was “wrong in law in one significant respect” and ordered Fox, the international trade secretary, to hold an immediate review of at least £4.7bn worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which brought the case against Fox, welcomed the verdict that continuing to license military equipment for export to the Gulf state was unlawful.
Thousands of civilians have been killed since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015 with indiscriminate bombing by a Saudi-led coalition that is supplied by the west and accused of being responsible for about two-thirds of the 11,700 killed in direct attacks.
What should the Western World do? How about demilitarise the responses so that less people die and work out how to provide aid and get elections happening again?
And what it should not be doing is assisting the Saudi Navy to make things worse.
Which is why Air New Zealand’s decision to service Saudi Navy engines is such a jaw dropper.
A 1 NEWS investigation has revealed that Air New Zealand’s business unit, Gas Turbines, which specialises in servicing military marine engines and turbines, has been supporting the Saudi Navy.
The Saudi Navy has been blockading Yemen – stopping food and medicine getting through to the country.
The United Nations believes five million civilians in Yemen are “one step away” from famine.
But it appears Air New Zealand has put an immediate stop to the work and is promising it won’t happen again.
For nearly eight weeks Air New Zealand refused to answer 1 NEWS’ questions about its activities in Saudi Arabia.
First it ignored media queries then claimed it would never discuss its clients.
It has also ignored requests for interviews.
Last week it finally issued a short statement saying Air New Zealand Gas Turbines had been carrying out work for the Saudi Navy through a third party contract.
“It is through a third party contract that work has recently been carried out on two engines and one power turbine module from vessels belonging to the Royal Saudi Navy.
“The Gas Turbines business has not contracted directly with the Royal Saudi Navy and will not be carrying out any further work of this nature.”
Air New Zealand attributed the work for the Saudi Navy to a lack of “oversight”.
“The Gas Turbines business is reviewing its contracting processes to ensure it has improved oversight of future work assigned through third party arrangements,” an unnamed spokesperson said.
I am aware that post Covid things are difficult at Air New Zealand. But providing assistance to a regime intent on making the plight of an impoverished nation even worse should not be something that it even considers.
I mean there were choices. Air New Zealand could decide to not accept the contract. Or it could decide to accept the contract and assist a regime which is subjecting millions of people to aerial attack and a naval blockade which coincidentally has a really bad reputation for its treatment of women and homosexuals.
Why it chose the latter needs to be subject to Government consideration. It is a State controlled company.
The Green Party ‘s Golriz Ghahraman has called for an investigation. From the Green’s website:
The Green Party strongly condemns the revelation that Air New Zealand may have provided assistance and maintenance to Saudi Arabian vessels involved in committing atrocities in Yemen.
“My thoughts go to the Yemeni community who continue to suffer one of the worst atrocities in human history, including mass starvation and violence causing hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, leaving millions displaced”, Green Party spokesperson on Human Rights Golriz Ghahraman said today.
“New Zealanders will be heartbroken to find our national carrier may have helped commit these mass crimes for financial gain.
“We welcome Air New Zealand’s move to cease all support for the Saudi military after the matter came to light, and to apply this lesson to all future third party contracts.
“However, we as a nation have an absolute legal and moral duty to investigate, and hold to account anyone in Air New Zealand’s leadership who may be found to have knowingly provided support and assistance to the atrocities committed in Yemen. If those in Air New Zealand HQ were not aware of what was going on, it needs to be established how that was allowed to happen.
I hope that the Government reviews this urgently and asks why Air New Zealand did not even advise if of what it was doing. Clearly the Government Air New Zealand relations need to be reviewed. I agree with Golriz that this needs to be investigated further.