Today of all days, 30 years after Tiananmen, would be a particularly apt day to act for human rights in China, and around the world.
Now we turn to actions you can take with respect to other horrendous human rights abuses – in Yemen, Burma, and South Sudan.
In Yemen, Congress did speak – but the administration refused to hear. This past April, Congress passed a joint resolution to end U.S. military engagement in Yemen. Yet Trump vetoed the resolution, and Congress failed to override the veto.
While when it comes to mass atrocities abroad the United States is often most guilty of inaction (such as regarding the Uighurs) or insufficient action, the United States is directly complicit with the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s war crimes in Yemen (the United Arab Emirates [UAE] is the other main coalition partner).
The UNDP estimates that if the Yemen war winds down by the end of 2019, it will have caused about 233,000 deaths. By the end of 2018, the war had already led to more than 69,000 deaths from combat (2014 through 2018), nearly 85,000 children had died from starvation (April 2014 through October 2018), and other causes of mortality robbed still more people of their lives. (The higher toll from combat than that cited above is due to a more-encompassing methodology, one less likely to miss casualties because, for instance, they had to be reported by a health facility or the responsible entity had to be known.)
Though the latest congressional effort to end U.S. involvement fell short, that does not mean that Congress cannot act to stop U.S. involvement in the war. Win Without War, an NGO, is calling for the United States to stop selling precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to end targeting, intelligence sharing, and other logistical support, and to end all of U.S. military support to Saudi Arabia and other members of its coalition.
The key is must-pass legislation that would be very difficult to veto, in particular the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and appropriations legislation. More specifically, through the NDAA, Congress could prohibit assistance, including intelligence sharing, refueling, and logistics, to any member of the Saudi-led coalition, and could suspend licenses for parts required to maintain and sustain the coalition’s planes – which would, in short order, ground them. Also, NDAA or defense appropriations legislation could ban sales of U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia or other coalition members, and require sanctions on anyone involved in blockading Yemeni ports, obstructing humanitarian aid, or other human rights abuses involving Yemen. (These and other provisions are included in very worthy Saudi Arabia and Yemen Accountability Act of 2019, though even if Congress passed this free-standing legislation, it is extremely unlikely Congress would be able to overcome a veto that would surely follow.)
Brutal “re-education” camps in China, U.S. complicity in war crimes in Yemen, the continued meager response to the genocide against the Rohingya, an effort to block accountability for horrific crimes in South Sudan….We don’t know whether our voices will be heard even if we act. But if we stay silent, we know that we will not be heard. Don’t let this moment pass in silence.
Remembering June 4, 1989. Act today for democracy and human rights.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.