Updated: February 27, 2021
Amnesty International on Thursday welcomed President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s temporary freeze of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE, citing widespread human rights abuses, including possible war crimes.
In 2018, the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey.
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But rather than punish the murderer, former President Donald Trump rewarded the Saudi government with an arms sales contract, citing financial gains for the United States and downplaying the horrible crime.
Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said President Biden’s decision to freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE represents “a welcome relief in an otherwise shameful chapter of history.”
Almost six years of conflict in Yemen, fueled by irresponsible arms transfers, have left 14 million Yemenis in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
“The suspension of arms sales by the United States is a step in the right direction and ups the pressure on European countries, most notably the UK and France, to follow suit and stop fueling the human misery in Yemen,” Nassif said in a statement.
“For years, we have been warning Western states that they risk complicity in war crimes as they continue to enable the Saudi-led coalition with arms. The Biden administration is finally acknowledging the disastrous effects of these continued sales, and puts to shame other states that continue to ignore the mountain of evidence of probable war crimes collected by Yemenis, the United Nations, and human rights organization over the course of the past six years.”
The international human rights organization recalled that since 2015, the Saudi and UAE-led Coalition carried out “scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes on civilians and civilians’ objects, hitting homes, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, weddings and funerals.”
Amnesty International said it has documented over 40 coalition air strikes that appear to have violated international humanitarian law, many of which amount to war crimes. These have resulted in more than 500 civilian deaths and 400 civilian injured.
In relation to the UAE, Amnesty International said it has collected extensive evidence that show weapons are not only being used by the UAE forces in Yemen, but are also being passed on to completely unaccountable militias, some of which stand accused of war crimes.