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HRW calls for halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia

August 17, 2018 at 1:48 pm

People walk among the rubble of a school after it was hit by Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen [Reuters/Khaled Abdullah]

The massacre resulted from a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in the Yemeni city of Saada, which left dozens of civilians and children killed, must be “a watershed in the history of this law-violating war”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.

On 9 August, around 43 civilians were killed in a Saudi coalition air raid which hit a bus while it was passing through Saada’s Houthi-controlled town of Dahyan. The bus was said to have been carrying Yemeni children on their way to school.

Riyadh has defended the attack describing it as “a legitimate military action carried out in accordance with humanitarian law.” It has also accused Houthis of using children as “human shields”.

HRW’s researcher, Stephanie Hancock, said that the attack “showed too clearly the cost of Yemen’s war on civilians,” stressing that it also highlighted “the callous indifference of the Western powers enthusiastically arming the [Saudi-led] coalition.”

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If the key arms suppliers are “genuinely” determined to minimise civilian harm in Yemen, Hancock pointed out, “this horrific incident should mark the point of no return.”

“Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia should be immediately suspended,” she stressed.

Hancock denounced what she described as “a complete silence by the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) following the attack,” pointing to the fact that they have earned billions out of selling weapons to Riyadh.

“Have they suspended their arms sales to the coalition?, they have not,” she said. “Have they demanded United Nations sanctions on coalition leaders commanding the forces responsible for repeated laws-of-war violations in Yemen?, they have not.”

Instead, she noted, the UK government has expressed its “deep concern” about civilian deaths, while the US has said that it was “sufficient for the Saudi-led coalition alone to investigate the attack.”

UN: 350,000 people displaced from Hudaydah since June

“This is the same coalition that has failed time and again to credibly investigate its own allegedly unlawful airstrikes and, contrary to UN and human rights groups’ findings, has repeatedly found no evidence coalition forces violated the laws of war,” Hancock reiterated.

“If the deaths of so many children in a single day doesn’t stir the conscience, what will?,” she warned addressing the international community.

HRW and other rights groups, Stephanie noted, have documented dozens of “unlawful airstrikes” by the Saudi-led coalition that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen, stressing that the “coalition’s blockade makes it harder to get vital humanitarian aid into the country and, eventually, accelerates Yemen’s march towards catastrophic famine.”

In March, the US Senate rejected a resolution bid seeking to end the country’s martial support to Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. The vote results were 47 in favour and 53 against. The same day, the US President Donald Trump announced a $110 billion weapons deal with Riyadh.

According to the UN official data, over 10,000 people have been killed, while more than 11 per cent of the country’s population has been displaced since the war’s inception.