InterAction Calls on Congress to Take Action on Civilian Casualties and Block Saudi Weapons Deal

Credit: Architect of the Capitol
In light of extensive civilian casualties in Yemen, NGO alliance urges Congress to vote against additional U.S. government weapon sales in upcoming debate.

WASHINGTON -- In advance of the expected congressional debate this week on the U.S. government's planned sale of additional weapons to Saudi Arabia, InterAction – the largest U.S. alliance of international NGOs – called on Congress to block the arms sale.

In a memo released today, InterAction expressed concern over the ongoing civilian harm and worsening humanitarian crisis occurring in Yemen resulting from the Saudi-led coalition’s pattern of disregard for international humanitarian law (IHL) and the protection of civilians. Proposed in early August, the $1.15 billion sale of 153 tanks, large supplies of ammunition and automatic weapons, and servicing support to Saudi Arabia, would signal a lack of concern by the U.S. government for the civilian loss of life, injuries and destruction of infrastructure occurring now in Yemen.

“The U.S. has repeatedly condemned attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure that provides access for life-saving assistance. It has also called for a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. But introducing more weapons into the conflict in Yemen will only exacerbate the fighting and put more civilians at risk,” said Patricia McIlreavy, InterAction’s vice president of humanitarian policy and practice. “By blocking the sale of additional weapons, Congress will send a clear signal that the U.S. takes the rules of war seriously and wants to ensure that civilians are treated with respect, even during war.”

The InterAction issue memo recommends that the U.S. government condition any support for, and cooperation with, foreign forces on demonstrable compliance with international humanitarian law. This follows on the release of an InterAction policy brief earlier this year illustrating the overwhelming scale of civilian harm resulting from the deadly conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Over the past several months, extensive civilian casualties due to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen have been reported in the press. The continued destruction of vital infrastructure – such as bridges, schools and hospitals –by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes has severely limited humanitarian access and relief efforts.

See InterAction's February 2016 Policy Brief: Civilians Under Fire

Read the full memo: