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Saudi soldiers fire artillery at the Saudi border with Yemen in Jazan, Saudi Arabia, Monday, April 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Saudi soldiers fire artillery at the Saudi border with Yemen in Jazan, Saudi Arabia, Monday, April 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Amid West's Silence, Groups Call for Saudi Arms Embargo to Stem Carnage in Yemen

Human rights groups and others call for arms embargo, accuse US, UK, France, and Canada of complicity in war crimes

Lauren McCauley

The flow of weapons to Saudi Arabia over the past year has "facilitated appalling crimes," according to leading international human rights groups, which argue that the United States and other western nations are thus complicit in the killing of thousands of Yemeni civilians.

To mark the nearly one year since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are renewing the call for an international arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, while singling out the U.S., the United Kingdom, and France for their "complicity in the unlawful airstrikes."

Since March 25, 2015, when the Arab state coalition began its air assault, Amnesty estimates that more than 3,000 civilians including 700 children have been killed and at least 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. The United Nations puts the death toll much higher, estimating as many as 6,200 civilians killed by the coalition fighting.

The anniversary of the bombing campaign falls less than two weeks after perhaps the deadliest attack yet, during which fighter jets bombed a market in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah, killing about 120 people including more than 20 children.

As Intercept journalist Mohammed Ali Kalfood wrote on Tuesday, after a series of bombings killed roughly 30 people in Brussels, Belgium: "While the horrific terrorist attacks against civilians in Europe receive extensive media coverage, the U.S.-supported bombings of civilians in Yemen get scant attention."

James Lynch, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, declared in a statement, "the international community’s response to the conflict in Yemen has been deeply cynical and utterly shameful."

As Common Dreams previously reported, the U.S.-backed bombing campaign has repeatedly targeted critical civilian infrastructure, including markets, schools, hospitals, power plants, refugee camps, and warehouses storing humanitarian aid.

Despite this, the groups charge, western nations continue to ignore the deadly impact of the arms trade.

Philippe Bolopion, deputy global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said that "governments that arm Saudi Arabia have rejected or downplayed compelling evidence that the coalition’s airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen."

"By continuing to sell weapons to a known violator that has done little to curtail its abuses," Bolopion continued, "the U.S., UK, and France risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths."

"The irresponsible and unlawful flow of arms to the warring parties in Yemen has directly contributed to civilian suffering on a mass scale," Lynch continued. "It’s time for world leaders to stop putting their economic interests first, and for the UN Security Council to impose a full, comprehensive embargo on transfers of arms for use in Yemen."

The call came the same day that a University of Montreal professor, with support from his students, filed a lawsuit in Federal Court arguing that the Trudeau government is failing to uphold both Canadian export law and the Geneva Conventions by going ahead with a $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

"The armoured vehicles to be delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada to Saudi Arabia may be used against the civilian population and therefore, the issuance of export permits … would not respect the guidelines Canada imposed on itself and would be contrary to the Geneva Conventions Act," states the application for judicial review, which was filed by Dr. Daniel Turp, a professor of international and constitutional law. "For those reasons, issuing those permits would be illegal."

As the Globe and Mail reports, "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood by the massive contract, which was signed by the former Harper government, saying Canada’s reputation as a fair dealer would be injured if Ottawa walked away from a signed deal."


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