KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights body, Lawyers for Liberty, says it is concerned with Malaysia’s military involvement in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s war against Yemen that started in 2015 and continues to this day.
Referring to the recent assault by the Saudi-led coalition on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, the body has called on Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu to explain the actual reasons for the presence of Malaysian troops in Riyadh and their involvement in the war in Yemen.
It also cited a report from the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen to the UN Security Council, which said that the Saudi-led military coalition’s attacks in Yemen “may amount to war crimes”, and that Malaysian military personnel were working alongside France, Britain, and the United States at the coalition’s joint headquarters in Riyadh to coordinate the war against the Houthi rebels and their allies in Yemen.
Its executive director Eric Paulsen said under the previous administration, former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein did not respond to the UN’s concerns and downplayed any Malaysian involvement, declaring that Malaysian troops were deployed only to evacuate Malaysians from Yemen and for humanitarian purposes.
“If it is indeed true that our troops were deployed to assist evacuation efforts, then the work should have been done by now and there was no need to remain deployed for over three years.
“The expectation that Malaysian troops will be required to carry out humanitarian work is absurd as Malaysia is part of the Saudi-led coalition that is causing the war and humanitarian disaster, described as the world’s worst by the UN secretary-general.
“Malaysia has a long-standing principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries that have served us well. Unless mandated by the UN Security Council, Malaysia has no business being involved in the war in Yemen,” he said in a statement.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in an open letter in November 2017, had called for an end to the war in Yemen and it is timely that Malaysia plays its more traditional peaceful and facilitative role, Paulsen said.
Lawyers for Liberty also urged the defence minister to cease all military participation in the Yemen conflict and to recall the Malaysian troops stationed in Riyadh.