The United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting Saudi Arabia’s deadly military campaign in Yemen, American official documents show.
According to the documents obtained by Reuters, US government lawyers warned Washington last year that it might be considered a “co-belligerent” in the Saudi war under international law.
State Department officials were skeptical of the Saudi military’s ability to prevent the killing of civilians and the destruction of “critical infrastructure” in its strikes against Yemen, according to the emails and other records as well as interviews with nearly a dozen officials with knowledge of those discussions.
Nonetheless, the US government has continued to authorize weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, showed the documents, which date from mid-May 2015 to February 2016.
During that period, State Department officials reviewed and approved the sale of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia to replenish bombs used in Yemen.
In one of the emails obtained by Reuters, a specific reference was made to a 2013 ruling from the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor that dramatically broadened the international legal definition of aiding and abetting such crimes.
According to the ruling, “practical assistance, encouragement or moral support” is sufficient to determine liability for war crimes.
The US and Britain are the main backers of Saudi Arabia in its war against the impoverished nation.
Washington and London have sold weapons worth billions of dollars to the kingdom, with Riyadh acknowledging that British and American military officials were in command and control centers for Saudi airstrikes and had access to lists of targets in Yemen.
On Saturday, over 140 people were killed after Saudi military aircraft attacked a hall in Sana’a, Yemen while rows of people were attending a funeral.