By Staff writer
Human Rights Watch writes to Barack Obama urging him to change policy on Saudi Arabia before he leaves office
The United States should immediately halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia following numerous unlawful coalition attacks in Yemen, Human Rights Watch has said in a letter to President Barack Obama.
The review announced by the US government following the October 8 bombing of a crowded funeral hall should examine alleged unlawful airstrikes in which US forces may have taken part and its findings should be released publicly before Obama leaves office, the rights group said in a statement.
“While coalition forces bomb homes, schools, hospitals and funerals in Yemen, the United States continues to allow shipments of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.
“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.”
Since March 2015, at least 4,125 civilians have been killed and 7,207 wounded in Yemen, the majority by Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Houthis and their allies, including forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have also been implicated in numerous serious violations of the laws of war.
Human Rights Watch said it has documented 58 apparently unlawful coalition airstrikes, and 16 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions.
It claimed the coalition used US-manufactured weapons in 21 of these apparently unlawful attacks, including two of the deadlier strikes – the March 15 attack on Mastaba market, which killed at least 97 civilians, and the October 8 attack on the funeral service in Sanaa, which killed at least 100 people.
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, the group added in the statement.
“By halting this transfer during his final months in office, President Obama could make a real difference in the lives of Yemeni people and show Riyadh there are consequences for committing war crimes,” Margon said.