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Saudi Arabia war crimes Yemen

Yemeni medics at Marib Hospital in Marib treat a girl who was injured in a missile strike targeting a residential area of the city on October 3, 2021. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

47 Groups Urge Congress to Avert 'Human Rights Failure' by Blocking Biden's Saudi Arms Sale

"The Biden administration in its very first weeks committed both to center human rights in foreign policy and to end U.S. complicity in the war in Yemen. Allowing this sale to stand breaks that commitment."

Brett Wilkins

Slamming the Saudi-led coalition's war crimes in Yemen—which are often perpetrated with U.S.-supplied weaponry—47 advocacy groups on Monday published a joint letter to congressional lawmakers urging them to block the Biden administration's "wrongful" planned $650 million arms sale to the repressive Middle Eastern monarchy.

"U.S. involvement should have ended following Biden's declaration to end U.S. support for the coalition."

At issue is the proposed sale of 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and 596 LAU-128 missile rail launchers in a package that would also include spare parts, support, and logistical services. The missiles, which would be fitted to Saudi fighter jets, are manufactured by Raytheon, on whose board Lloyd Austin sat before becoming U.S. defense secretary this year.

The letter's signatories urge members of Congress to pass resolutions by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to block the sale and end "U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led coalition's gross violations of international law in Yemen, including its blockade."

"For nearly seven years, U.S.-supported Saudi forces have unlawfully targeted civilian objects and infrastructure via indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks that have killed and injured thousands of civilians in Yemen," the letter's authors write. "These aerial bombardments include myriad war crimes and have exacerbated the catastrophic humanitarian crisis."

The signers note the Saudi military's "use of U.S.-manufactured weapons in airstrikes" that have hit "hospitals, schools, and civilian homes—killing healthcare providers, teachers, and entire families, including children."

The letter continues:

Despite the claim of "defensive use," the proposed sale of these AIM-120 air-to-air missiles and hundreds of missile launchers are not exclusively defensive, and can reasonably be used to support offensive operations. These missiles lend another tool for Saudi-led forces to maintain and enforce their brutal blockade, particularly by raising their ability to threaten aircraft that would seek to land. More broadly, continuing to arm Saudi forces allows their grave rights violations and fueling of one of world's worst humanitarian crises to evade accountability, and amounts to support and political cover for the illegal blockade.

Last December, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that the Saudi-led war had caused 233,000 deaths, "including 131,000 from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services, and infrastructure" exacerbated by the blockade. Last week, the United Nations Development Program published a report projecting the war's death toll will reach 377,000 by the end of the year, with children under the age of five accounting for 70% of the casualties.

"U.S. involvement should have ended following [President Joe] Biden's declaration to end U.S. support for the coalition," the authors assert, referring to the president's February announcement that his administration would stop backing "offensive operations," including weapons transfers, in the war.

"The Biden administration in its very first weeks committed both to center human rights in foreign policy and to end U.S. complicity in the war in Yemen," the letter concludes. "Allowing this sale to stand breaks that commitment, and would be a human rights failure."


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