• Press Release

Senate Vote Authorizing Arms Sales to the UAE Could Fuel More War Crimes in Yemen, Libya Conflicts

December 9, 2020

Responding to authorization today from the United States Senate to sell several advanced military capabilities that are worth $23.37 billion and export over $7.2s billion in defense articles to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA said:

“Today’s vote could be the first act in a domino effect which ends in human tragedy as this country provides capabilities which risk being used to injure and kill thousands of Yemenis and Libyans in their homes, their schools, and their hospitals.

“Today’s sale could result in United States weapons being used by the UAE for war crimes in Yemen, causing immense human suffering. The United States should be encouraging all states supplying parties to the conflict to stop the transfer of any arms, equipment, and military assistance which risk being used in Yemen – instead the United States is shamelessly arming a key protagonist in the conflict.”


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. In one instance, Amnesty International recovered a fragment of a U.S.-manufactured Raytheon Paveway guided bomb which destroyed a residential building in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, killing 16 civilians and injuring 17 more; the remnants of a Raytheon Paveway bomb were also found in the aftermath of a coalition airstrike on a residential home in Ta’iz governorate which killed six civilians including three children. In 2018, the United Nations Panel of Experts published a report presenting evidence of United States and UK manufactured Paveway systems used in nine strikes, resulting in 84 civilian deaths and 77 injuries – 33 of them in a single incident, when a high-explosive bomb, assisted by a Paveway guidance kit, struck a motel in Arhab on August 23, 2017- surely just the tip of the iceberg.

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 are war crimes, 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 potentially fueling more war crimes. 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;  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; and for the incoming Biden administration to roll back these sales and bring back human rights into the arms sales process.

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