Dutch Lawmakers Pass Bill To Ban Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia

The legislation cites human rights violations by the Arab state, particularly in Yemen.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has hit Yemen with airstrikes in an attempt to fight the Houthi rebel
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has hit Yemen with airstrikes in an attempt to fight the Houthi rebel group. Half of the 6,000 people killed in Yemen since the Saudi intervention were civilians.

The Dutch Parliament passed a bill Tuesday asking the government to ban weapons exports to Saudi Arabia on the grounds that the Arab kingdom has violated humanitarian law in Yemen and human rights in its own country, Reuters reported.

The bill referred to a 259-page report from the United Nations Panel of Experts on Yemen noting that Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen had targeted civilians and that some of them constituted international crimes against humanity.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Arab states fighting to help President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi retake power after the Houthi militia took over the capital and large parts of the country. 

Over 6,000 people in Yemen have been killed since the start of Saudi Arabia’s intervention last March, the U.N. reported in February. Half of those people were civilians, the U.N. added. Saudi-led airstrike attacks in the past six months alone have hit a school for blind children, a Yemeni hospital and a Doctors Without Borders hospital.

The U.N. blamed Saudi-led coalition forces for a “disproportionate amount” of attacks on civilians last December. Human Rights Watch has also accused the coalition of a “repeated use of cluster bombs” on residential neighborhoods.

The Dutch bill also referred to the use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported. The country executed 158 people in 2015, marking the nation’s deadliest year in 20 years of executions. The country also announced in January that it had executed 47 prisoners in one day alone. The mass execution, which included a Shiite cleric, prompted outrage from human rights organizations and Shiites around the world.

The Netherlands will be the first European Union country to enact an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia after the European Parliament called on its 28 member states last month to stop selling weaponry to the Arab nation.

While the European Parliament appeal does not legally bind EU countries to enact the arms embargo, experts and legislators hoped that it would deter countries like the United Kingdom and France, the bloc’s largest arms suppliers, from supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Between March 2015 and January 2016, the Netherlands issued licenses for arms exports and transits worth $2.98 million to Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the Control Arms Coalition, a group of international organizations campaigning for international arms trade regulation. The report emphasized, however, that since July 2015, the Dutch parliament has tightened export policies for members of the Saudi-led coalition.

The United States is also one of the largest arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. State Department approved major arms sales to Saudi Arabia that were worth a total of $20.8 billion last year, the Control Arms Coalition report said.

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