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Sat 26 Mar 2016 12:56 AM

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Human rights groups call for Saudi Arabia arms embargo

International groups issue joint statement calling on the US, UK, France and other to suspend all weapon sales to Gulf kingdom

Human rights groups call for Saudi Arabia arms embargo
(Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

International human rights groups have called on the United States, United Kingdom, France, and others to suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.

US-based Human Rights Watch said the suspension should take place until Saudi Arabia curtails what it calls unlawful airstrikes in Yemen and credibly investigates alleged violations.

Since March 26, 2015, a coalition of nine Arab countries has conducted military operations against the Houthi armed group and carried out numerous airstrikes.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the coalition has consistently failed to investigate alleged unlawful attacks as the laws of war require. Saudi Arabia has been the leader of the coalition, with targeting decisions made in the Saudi Defence Ministry in Riyadh.

“For the past year, governments that arm Saudi Arabia have rejected or downplayed compelling evidence that the coalition’s airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy global advocacy director.

“By continuing to sell weapons to a known violator that has done little to curtail its abuses, the US, UK, and France risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other international and Yemeni groups have issued a joint statement calling for the cessation of sales and transfers of all weapons and military-related equipment to parties to the conflict in Yemen where “there is a substantial risk of these arms being used… to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.”

Human Rights Watch said it has documented 36 unlawful airstrikes that have killed at least 550 civilians, as well as 15 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions.

It added that Saudi Arabia has not responded to its letters detailing apparent violations by the coalition and seeking clarification on the intended target of attack.

In September 2014, the Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. In January 2015, they effectively ousted President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and his cabinet.

On March 26, the Saudi-led coalition, consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan, began an aerial bombing campaign against Houthi and allied forces.

At least 3,200 civilians have been killed and 5,700 wounded since coalition military operations began, 60 percent of them in coalition airstrikes, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“How many more airstrikes need to wreak havoc on civilians before countries supplying aircraft and bombs to the coalition pull the plug?” Bolopion said.

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