Jeremy Hunt has destroyed the last shred of his government’s moral authority in one single tweet.
The United Nations (UN) produced two damning reports about Myanmar (still often known as Burma) and Yemen on 27 and 28 August. But when Hunt took to Twitter to condemn the UN’s “deeply disturbing” conclusions, he only mentioned one.
Funnily enough, the UK is up to its neck in the conflict Hunt ‘forgot’ to mention. So the selective nature of Hunt’s outrage lets his government off the hook. Thankfully, people who noticed the foreign secretary’s oversight aren’t doing the same.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) called for high ranking officials in Burma’s military, the Tatmadaw, to face an investigation for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes on 27 August. Following a fact-finding mission on violence against the Rohingya in the country over the last year, the UN concluded:
Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages… The Tatmadaw’s contempt for human life, integrity and freedom, and for international law generally, should be a cause of concern for the entire population.
In response to the UN report, Hunt tweeted:
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Deeply disturbing to read UN report on crimes against Rohingya people. There must be never be a hiding place for those who commit these kind of atrocities. Have decided to visit Burma to seek answers at the earliest opportunity
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) August 27, 2018
A day later, the UN published accusations of more possible war crimes. This time by all “parties to the conflict” in Yemen. Its group experts claim that bombing largely carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Yemeni government “may amount to war crimes”. It further states that the “severe naval and air restrictions” imposed by the coalition “may amount to international crimes”.
Meanwhile, it says that various parties may also be responsible for arbitrary detentions, torture, rape, sexual violence, the use of child soldiers, and restricting freedom of expression.
But Hunt didn’t condemn these “deeply disturbing” crimes against people in Yemen on Twitter. In fact, this report didn’t even get a mention.
Observers didn’t let Hunt’s selective outrage go by unnoticed, though:
Meanwhile I don't hear u speaking up for Saudis War crimes against YEMEN people, Why is that, huh?
— NinaChomskyLuchadora #SaveOurNHS #LBOM (@NinaWonderGirl) August 28, 2018
Good to hear. I assume you'll be pushing for Saudi Arabian leaders to face similar investigation.
— OB (@oz1889) August 27, 2018
Be good to see some criticism of other oppressive regimes.Maybe the Saudis or Israel ?
— Stuart mcintyre (@Stuartmcintyre4) August 27, 2018
When are you visiting Yemen???????????
— Frances Hilton (@Florenceofarabi) August 28, 2018
Of course, there’s a reason why the UK government might choose to avoid criticism of Saudi Arabia: arms sales. In fact, ex-defence secretary Micheal Fallon said as much in 2017. During a Commons Defence Committee session, he said criticism of Saudi Arabia was “not helpful” in securing arms deals with the country. He also urged parliamentarians to do “everything possible to encourage” a deal at the time.
But that’s not the government’s only problem. Because it’s doing much more in the Yemen assault than providing arms. It’s deployed staff for “liaison” in Saudi Arabia’s headquarters, where the regime’s targeting rooms are located. It’s also providing “advice, information and assistance” to the country.
So, if Saudi Arabia is found guilty of war crimes, where does that leave the UK? If Hunt’s government is complicit in the conflict, is it culpable for the crimes too?
Judging from Hunt’s Twitter feed, that’s not a question he’ll be willingly answering anytime soon.
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