Follow us on social

Signal-2023-08-21-110137_002

As US mulls security pact, Saudi Arabia accused of crimes against humanity

Human Rights Watch says Riyadh has killed hundreds of migrants at its border with Yemen since March 2022.

Reporting | Washington Politics

Saudi border guards have killed hundreds of asylum seekers at the country’s border with Yemen using bombs and live fire, according to an explosive new report from Human Rights Watch, which says the attacks would amount to a “crime against humanity” if they were part of official regime policy.

Survivors of the alleged attacks described their experience in harrowing terms. One migrant said only seven of the 150 people they crossed with survived shelling with heavy weapons. “There were remains of people everywhere, scattered everywhere,” they told Human Rights Watch.

“They were firing big rocket launchers at us,” remembered another survivor. “It was like a bomb. From the 250 people [in the group crossing], 150 died.”

Others accused border guards of firing on migrants, most of whom were fleeing unrest in Ethiopia, at close range. The report strongly suggests that the number of migrants killed since last year alone may reach into the thousands.

The accusations come at a particularly sensitive time for the Saudi monarchy, which has embarked on a massive public relations push in order to burnish a global image tarnished by alleged war crimes in Yemen and the grisly 2018 murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post opinion writer Jamal Khashoggi.

“Spending billions buying up professional golf, football clubs, and major entertainment events to improve the Saudi image should not deflect attention from these horrendous crimes,” said Nadia Hardman of Human Rights Watch in a statement.

The report also raises uncomfortable questions for the Biden administration, which is considering giving “security guarantees” to Saudi Arabia in order to entice its leaders to normalize relations with Israel. Among the proposals on the table is a mutual defense treaty that would obligate U.S. troops to defend Saudi Arabia in case of attack. American officials are also mulling whether to help Riyadh develop a civilian nuclear program, a move that many experts worry could be a first step toward a Saudi nuclear weapons push.

The White House, aware that any new treaty would face an uphill battle in Congress, has already started briefing Democratic leaders about the talks in order to build support, according to the New York Times.

President Joe Biden, who once said he hoped to turn Riyadh into a “pariah,” may meet with de facto Saudi leader Muhammad bin Salman, or MBS, at next month’s G-20 Summit in New Delhi, India. The main topic of discussion at the proposed meeting would be a potential “mega deal” in which the United States would make a series of concessions to Saudi Arabia in order to encourage it to normalize ties with Israel, according to Axios. It remains unclear what the U.S. would get from the agreement.

Some analysts argue the Human Rights Watch report should serve as a reminder that working with the Saudi government often entails moral pitfalls.

“At a minimum this should trigger a [State Department] investigation into whether US law has been violated by US-trained Saudi forces or with US arms,” said Dylan Williams of J Street, a progressive pro-Israel advocacy group. “It’s also a horrific reminder of why the US should not bind itself [to] the Saudi autocracy with major new military commitments or arms sales.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, argued that Saudi actions on the border are a direct result of Washington’s continued support for Riyadh. “Saudi Arabia feels empowered to act as recklessly, inhumanely and unlawfully as it wants — including lobbing mortar attacks on desperate migrants seeking safety — because it knows it has U.S. support,” Whitson told RS.

“We can expect that its reckless belligerence will only increase with the added security of a U.S. security guarantee,” she added. “The Biden administration should take responsibility for its role in knowingly aiding and abetting Saudi security forces.”

Repatriated Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia queue to get registered, after disembarking from a Saudi Airlines plane, at the Bole International Airport, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 1, 2022. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Reporting | Washington Politics
How much did the right really gain in Europe?

Marine Le Pen, President of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party parliamentary group, and Jordan Bardella, President of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party and head of the RN list for the European elections, attend a political rally during the party's campaign for the EU elections, in Paris, France, June 2, 2024. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

How much did the right really gain in Europe?

Europe

The elections for the European Parliament brought gains for parties belonging to both its populist far- right factions — European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the more radical Identity and Democracy (ID) group. Parties of the populist or far right (ECR, ID or unaffiliated) came in first in five countries: France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia.

In Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands, such parties made a strong second place showing. These elections produced highly unsettling developments in France and Germany, the two most influential EU member countries.

keep readingShow less
What the Swiss 'peace summit' can realistically achieve

President of the Swiss Confederation Viola Amherd and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy inspect the guard of honour of the Swiss Army, on Monday, January 15, 2024, in Kehrsatz, near Bern, Switzerland. Keystone/Alessandro Della Valle/Pool via REUTERS

What the Swiss 'peace summit' can realistically achieve

Europe

The Ukraine “Peace Summit” in Geneva this weekend is not really a summit and is not really about peace.

The agenda has been scaled back to discussions of limited measures aimed not at ending the war, but at softening some of its aspects. Outside Europe, very few international leaders are attending — including President Biden, who is sending Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan instead.

keep readingShow less
||
Diplomacy Watch: A peace summit without Russia
Diplomacy Watch: What’s the point of Swiss peace summit?

Diplomacy Watch: At G7 summit, West works to reassure Ukraine

QiOSK

Switzerland will host a summit this weekend aimed at shoring up global support for Ukraine’s war effort — and Washington and its Western partners are looking to ensure that Kyiv enters the meeting in as strong a position as possible.

Not much of the news coming out of Ukraine in recent months has been particularly positive. Russia has started taking Ukrainian territory for the first time since 2022, there has been increasing political turmoil in Kyiv, and morale among frontline soldiers continues to suffer. Last weekend, right-wing parties that are more skeptical of assisting Ukraine overperformed in European parliamentary elections, particularly in France and Germany.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest