WASHINGTON – Ahead of plans by the United States to sell 18 armed aerial drones worth approximately $2.9 billion to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA said:
“The startling fact that the United States government continues its unflinching support of providing weapons that risk adding to the devastating toll of Yemeni civilians unlawfully killed and injured by U.S.-made weapons should shake to the core every person living in this country. The United States must resolutely refrain from supplying weapons that could be used in the conflict and not transfer weaponry to the UAE, or risk complicity in likely war crimes in Yemen.
“These U.S. drones could be responsible for UAE attacks that violate international humanitarian law and kill, as well as injure, thousands of Yemeni civilians already bearing the brunt of the one of the world’s most devastating humanitarian catastrophes.”
Since Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition air strikes began in March 2015, Amnesty International has visited and investigated dozens of air strike sites in eight governorates and repeatedly found remnants of munitions manufactured in the United States. U.S.-manufactured Raytheon Paveway bombs examined by Amnesty International that have struck hospitals, schools, and civilian homes, killing healthcare providers, teachers, and entire families, including children as young as two years old.
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The sale to the UAE is particularly worrying as Amnesty International has acquired extensive evidence that the UAE used armed drones in Libya, to break the long-standing UN arms embargo, by operating these drones on behalf of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces, an armed group controlling large swaths of Eastern Libya, in the conflict against the internationally backed Government of National Accord. Furthermore, the UAE has used these drones to target civilian houses and health facilities, including field hospitals and ambulances which is especially concerning as medics, medical transport and medical facilities, including those treating wounded or sick fighters, are specially protected under international humanitarian law.
This sale would mark the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted an arms agreement to allow United States contractors to sell more arms and ammunition, re-opening the floodgates for arms sales with weakened human rights criteria, and potential fuel for more brutal conflicts. It would also add to the worrying proliferation of this advanced weapon, which has been used around the world for unlawful killings.
Amnesty International USA is calling for the United States to immediately halt transfers of all arms, equipment, and military assistance to all parties to the conflict for use in Yemen; and to enforce the United Nations arms embargo on Libya by prohibiting the transfer of arms and equipment that may be used in the armed conflict there.