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US could be complicit in Saudi war crimes: HRW

2 December 2016 10:19

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has renewed the call for Washington to “immediately” halt arms sales to the Saudi regime and review the participation of US forces in Riyadh’s “unlawful” air raids against neighboring Yemen.

In a letter to outgoing US President Barack Obama, the New York-based body’s Washington director, Sarah Margon, said the US “continues to allow shipments of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia” while Riyadh and its allies “bomb homes, schools, hospitals, and funerals in Yemen.”

“President Obama has one final chance to change US policy on Saudi Arabia and Yemen for the better by stopping weapons’ transfers immediately and reviewing possible participation of US forces in the coalition’s many unlawful airstrikes,” she added.

Saudi Arabia initiated the bombing campaign in March 2015 to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a dedicated Riyadh ally, who had resigned earlier and fled to the Saudi capital. The offensive has killed thousands in Yemen.

The US approved more than $20 billion in military sales to the kingdom in 2015 alone.

The HRW further said Washington has been withholding clarification on reports that US forces were providing aerial refueling, tactical intelligence, or other support to the deadly campaign.


An expended BLU-108 bomblet found in the Sa’ada governorate in northern Yemen on April 17, 2015. (Photo by HRW)

 

It said it had listed 58 “apparently unlawful” Saudi airstrikes, and 16 attacks involving internationally-banned cluster munitions, adding that the invaders had used US-manufactured weapons in 21 of these attacks.

The strikes using US arms included a March 15 attack against a crowded market in the Mastaba town of the northwestern Hajjah Province, which killed at least 97 civilians, and an October 8 attack on a funeral service in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, which left at least 100 people dead and more than 500 others wounded.

“Both appear to amount to war crimes,” the group said. “The repeated use of US-manufactured munitions in unlawful attacks in Yemen could make the US complicit for future transfers of arms to Saudi forces.”

It also cited a recent letter by Congressman Ted Lieu, in which he had drawn comparison between current US officials, who are likely contributing to the Saudi brutality, and former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was convicted in 2008 for aiding war crimes in Sierra Leone.

“The Charles Taylor case precedent puts US officials at risk of being implicated in aiding and abetting war crimes in Yemen,” the lawmaker wrote.

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