Arms watchdog urges halt to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over Yemen
A major arms watchdog has lashed out at some signatories and parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), including the US, for their continued arms supply to Saudi Arabia, saying they should cut the sales of weapons as they are used on civilians in Yemen.
“Every day, we are seeing the devastating impact of the sale of arms and ammunition for use on civilians in Yemen,” Anna Macdonald, director of the watchdog Control Arms, said Monday.
She added that countries like France, Britain and the United States have been “flouting international law in plain sight by continuing to sell billions of dollars worth of deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia.”
Saudi Arabia started an air campaign against Yemen in March 2015 and later launched ground operations to undermine the ruling Houthi Ansarullah movement and its allies and restore power to Yemen’s resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Nearly 10,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Riyadh’s military aggression which lacks any international mandate.
Under the ATT, states are required to block any arms deal if they have knowledge at the time of the sale that the weapons will be used against civilians.
This comes as intentional aid groups and human rights organizations, which have operatives on the ground in Yemen, have confirmed multiple cases of Saudi airstrikes targeting civilians in the impoverished Arab country.
Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which decided to pull out its staff from Yemen following repeated attacks on its hospitals and health facilities, said recently that Saudi bombings were “indiscriminate.”
“The ATT has been in force for nearly two years but some … parties are violating it with impunity,” Macdonald said in her statement, adding that by continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, major arms exporters that signed the ATT are guilty of “the worst kind of hypocrisy.”
France, the US and Britain have been the major arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia since the start of the conflict in Yemen.
Paris authorized USD 18 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia last year, while the United States approved arms deals with Riyadh worth USD 5.9 billion in 2015. The figure for Britain was USD 4.0 billion in the same period.
France and Britain are parties to the ATT and have ratified the deal in their parliaments. The US is only a signatory as Congress has not approved it yet.