International pressure over Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations in Yemen increased on Tuesday as the Dutch parliament voted to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The vote makes the Netherlands the first European Union country to take action on an European Parliament motion calling for an embargo on selling weapons to the Saudis.
The bill quoted U.N. statistics saying 6,000 civilians have been killed in Yemen by a Saudi-led airstrike campaign that is supported by the United States. Aggresive action in Yemen wasn’t the only motivation for the Netherlands to impose an arms-trade embargo, as the Dutch also cited Saudi Arabia’s execution record for 2016. The Gulf kingdom has already executed 70 people — 47 of them killed on January 2 for charges of terrorism.
France and the UK are major arms suppliers to the Saudis but are yet to implement the embargo despite growing pressure. According to British daily the Independent, “the UK has sold more than £5.6 billion worth of weapons to the Saudi government under [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron.”
“Germany licensed arms exports of almost $200 million to the Sunni kingdom in the first six months of 2015, the latest economy ministry data available,” Reuters reported. “Dutch figures were not immediately available.”
Human Rights Watch criticized American arm sales of $1.29 billion to Saudi Arabia last year and called on the Obama administration to break off the transaction.
“The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March,” Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director said. “Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible.”
Last month, Amnesty International called for governments around the world to “set their hypocrisy aside and stop selling billions of dollars worth of deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia being used to attack Yemeni civilians.”