Weapons-makers being sued in U.S. courts by Yemen war victims
Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics, three of the five largest U.S. defence contractors, supported war crimes by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition forces during the civil war in Yemen, seven Yemeni civilians alleged in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, reports Military Times, was filed in federal court in Washington on March 2. The suit emerges from two horrific attacks.
- On October 7, 2015, a wedding was taking place in the village of Sanaban when Saudi-led coalition aircraft reportedly launched two missiles toward the party. The missiles hit a house and the tent where guests were gathered, killing 49 people, including 13 women and 22 children.
- The other attack in question occurred on October 8, 2016, in Yemen’s capital. Hundreds were gathered at the Great Hall of Sana’a City for the funeral of a tribal leader, when a Raytheon and Lockheed-made GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb leveled the area, killing 140 people. Both attacks were documented by human rights investigators.
The weapons companies and their chief executives are named in the case, “because they are aiding and abetting the war crimes committed by the Saudi and UAE officials,” Terry Collingsworth, the lead lawyer for the seven plaintiffs and executive director of the International Rights Advocates, told Military Times reporter Zamone Perez. “We just have to really show that they knew or should have known — or recklessly disregarded — that the weapons that they were providing were causing civilian deaths.”
The case is being lead by International Rights Advocates, a human rights organization that specializes in prosecuting corporations. “Most of our cases originate because a multinational company is knowingly operating in a country without a fully functioning or corrupt legal system and uses that lack of the rule of law to exploit and abuse workers, farmers, and others impacted by the company’s operations,” says the organization’s website.
Brutal conflict in Yemen
The Yemen civil war has served as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran since 2014, when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took control of the government. Then, in March 2015, a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia began a military campaign of airstrikes against the rebels with U.S. logistical and weapons support.
Nearly 15,000 civilians have been killed in direct military actions since the conflict began, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade. Sixty percent of the deaths, the group said, have been the result of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, says Perez.
As PeaceQuest readers will recall, Canadian groups have accused Canada of violating its international obligations by selling arms to Saudi Arabia – including light armoured vehicles build at a General Dynamics branch plant in southern Ontario.
Project Ploughshares and Amnesty International issued a report titled, “No Credible Evidence’: Canada’s Flawed Analysis of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia,” which accuses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government of violating the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an international agreement that Canada became a party to in 2019.
“It has been established through investigations and expert reports that Canadian weapons exports to [Saudi Arabia] are contrary to Canada’s legal obligations under the ATT,” the report reads.
Officials with Raytheon and the U.S. Defense Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Military Times. The State Department press office and spokespersons for General Dynamics and Lockheed said they do not comment on ongoing legal cases.
In response to Canadian groups, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada told Al Jazeera that the government, “is committed to a rigorous arms export system.”