Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the US Wednesday to halt the sale of weapons [press release] to the government of Saudi Arabia [HRW backgrounder]. The call comes days after the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced a Foreign Military Sale [news release] estimated at $1.29 billion for air-to-ground munitions. The DOD stated that weapons are being exhausted by Saudi forces in counter-terrorism operations and the sale will help the country defend itself against threats from adversaries in the future. However, according to HRW, Saudi airstrikes in Yemen may be violations of laws of war. Joe Stork, HRW’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director said:
The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians [report] in Yemen. Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible.
HRW believes the US should halt the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia until these apparently unlawful strikes are investigated.
There have been many recent investigations into possible war crimes committed in Yemen. In October Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into possible war crimes surrounding the destruction of a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders [advocacy website]. In April the UN reported that the intense fighting in Yemen has claimed the lives [JURIST report] of 551 civilians, including 115 children. That same month, HRW also condemned [JURIST report] the targeting of the Ibn Khaldun Hospital in Yemen. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Yemeni combatants to report attacks [JURIST report] resulting in civilian casualties so that they can be investigated and international human rights law can be upheld. As early as March HRW expressed concern over the number of civilian deaths resulting from the Saudi Arabia-led bombing [JURIST report] of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.