Letter to UN Secretary-General Concerning Saudi Arabia’s Removal from List of Armies Charged with War Crimes

Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)


June 30, 2016

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Secretary General

We the undersigned, a group of professors in Europe and North America, are deeply alarmed to learn that the government of Saudi Arabia has coerced you to remove the military coalition led by that country in Yemen from the UN list of armies charged with war crimes in that country. According to the New York Times, you have openly admitted to reporters that you were “threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan and Syria” if you did not capitulate to Saudi demands in this regard.

The same reports indicate that your office had issued a report “on violations of children’s rights in war zones, and it cited deadly coalition attacks that had hit schools and hospitals,” but soon “the coalition was taken off the list, after lobbying by Saudi Arabia and some of its wealthiest allies who help finance United Nations humanitarian operations.”

We are, sir, aghast at the brazen vulgarity of power that a single ruling family in one member state can assert against the entirety of the UN to prevent it from documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This in fact is the second time in a year that your office has reversed course by openly removing the name of a state charged with war crimes from such lists. Last year under US and Israeli pressure you removed Israel from a similar list of violent states freely maiming and murdering children without any repercussions.

The UN is not the first or the only international entity to charge Saudi Arabia with such crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International has also reported: “Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces have carried out a series of air strikes targeting schools that were still in use, in violation of international humanitarian law, and hampering access to education for thousands of Yemen’s children.”

On its most recent mission to northern Yemen, Amnesty International has found “evidence of US, UK and Brazilian cluster munitions used by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces. The use of cluster bombs is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”

Such egregious violations of the human rights of a beleaguered nation by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, aided and abetted by the US and the UK, make a mockery of the sovereignty of nations, of international humanitarian conventions, of the rule of law, and above all of the rule of reason and sanity.

If not the UN then what international body has the duty of documenting such criminal offenses? If not the UN then who should hold Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners accountable for such war crimes?

Withholding of humanitarian aid to the UN for political gain is an affront to the very logic of cooperation among the community of nations and should be condemned as such by the entirety of the civilized world.

We the undersigned hold the UN chiefly responsible for continuing to document such barbaric violations of children’s safety and security by Saudi Arabia in Yemen or by any other member state anywhere else in the world.

The ruling Saudi regime obviously knows how to use its wealth to manipulate dysfunctional international bodies such as the UN. However, in the eyes of the global community it stands charged with overwhelming evidence of war crimes and of fundamental human indecency.

Your open and public confession, Mr. Moon, to have been forced to pander to Saudi power and wealth is the most damning indictment both against the staggering incompetence of UN and the wanton cruelty of Saudi Arabia, which is literally getting away with mass murder and an assortment of atrocities in a neighboring sovereign nation-state.

  1. Khaled Abou El Fadl, The University of California, Los Angeles
  2. Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
  3. Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University
  4. Moonier Arbach, CNRS Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris
  5. Geneviève Bédoucha, CNRS, France
  6. Peter Beinart, The City University of New York
  7. Naor Ben-Yehoyada, The University of Cambridge
  8. Isa Blumi, Stockholm University
  9. Laurent Bonnefoy, Sciences Politiques, Paris
  10. François Burgat, IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence, France
  11. Robert Burrowes, University of Washington
  12. Sheila Carapico, University of Richmond
  13. Steven Caton, Harvard University
  14. Don Conway-Long, Webster University
  15. Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
  16. Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
  17. Rochelle Davis, Georgetown University
  18. Blandine Destremau, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, EHESS, Paris
  19. Paul Dresch, University of Oxford
  20. Kaveh Ehsani, DePaul University
  21. Richard Falk, Princeton University, emeritus
  22. Mark Gasiorowski, Tulane University
  23. McGuire Gibson, University of Chicago
  24. Michael Gilsenan, New York University
  25. Andre Gingrich, Austrian Academy of Sciences
  26. Ali Ghodsi, University of Waterloo, Canada
  27. Ahmad Hadavi, Northwestern University
  28. Najam Haider, Barnard College, Columbia University
  29. Wael Hallaq, Columbia University
  30. Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
  31. Mary Hegland, Santa Clara University
  32. Juliette Honvault, IREMAM, Aix-Marseille Université, France
  33. Erik Hovden, Institute for Social Anthropology, Vienna
  34. Hossein Kamaly, Barnard College, Columbia University
  35. Mohsen Kadivar, Duke University
  36. Lamya Khalidi, CEPAM, CNRS, France
  37. Haider A. Khan, University of Denver
  38. Laurie King, Georgetown University
  39. Thomas Kuehn, Simon Fraser University
  40. Ahmet T. Kuru, San Diego State University
  41. Jean Lambert, CERMOM-INALCO, Paris
  42. Miriam Lowi, College of New Jersey
  43. Mojtaba Mahdavi, University of Alberta, Canada
  44. Elham Manea, University of Zurich
  45. Hamid Mavani, Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School
  46. Anne Meneley, Trent University
  47. Brinkley Messick, Columbia University
  48. Flagg Miller, University of California, Davis
  49. Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University
  50. Annie Montigny, MNHN-Musée de l’Homme, France
  51. Norma Claire Moruzzi, University of Illinois at Chicago
  52. Mehdi Noorbakhsh, Harrisburg University
  53. Misagh Parsa, Dartmouth College
  54. Vijay Prasad, Trinity College
  55. Babak Rahimi, University of California, San Diego
  56. Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College
  57. Mahmoud Sadri, Texas Woman’s University
  58. Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California
  59. Christa Salamandra, Lehman College, The City University of New York
  60. Aseel Sawalha, Fordham University
  61. Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College, The City University of New York
  62. Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, CNRS, LLACAN-INaLCO, France
  63. Emilio Spadola, Colgate University
  64. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University
  65. Roman Stadnicki, University of Tours
  66. Lucine Taminian, Independent Scholar, Amman
  67. Mahdi Tourage, King’s University College at Western University
  68. Peyman Vahabzadeh, University of Victoria, Canada
  69. Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania
  70. Janet Watson, University of Leeds
  71. John Willis, University of Colorado
  72. Jessica Winegar, Northwestern University
  73. Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Hobart and William Smith Colleges


Close this search box.