UAE supplying militias with windfall of Western...
An open source investigation published by Amnesty International, highlights a growing danger in Yemen’s conflict as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recklessly arms militias with a range of advanced weaponry.
The investigation, “When arms go astray: Yemen’s deadly new threat of arms diversion to militias,” shows how the UAE has become a major conduit for armoured vehicles, mortar systems, rifles, pistols, and machine guns – which are being illicitly diverted to unaccountable militias accused of war crimes and other serious violations.
“A deadly new threat is emerging. Yemen is quickly becoming a safe haven for UAE-backed militias that are largely unaccountable,” said Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. “Emirati forces receive billions of dollars’ worth of arms from Western states and others, only to siphon them off to militias in Yemen that answer to no-one and are known to be committing war crimes.
Also according to CNN, Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen. The CNN investigation said that the weapons had also made their way into the hands of Houthis.
The Saudi coalition did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A senior UAE official denied “in no uncertain terms that we are in violation of end-user agreements in any manner.” The US Department of Defense, when asked specifically about the Giants Brigades, said it had not given Saudi Arabia or the UAE permission to hand over US weaponry to other factions on the ground.
Western states and others continue to supply the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and other coalition members with arms.
According to publicly available data, since the outbreak of the Yemeni conflict in March 2015, Western states have supplied the UAE with at least US$3.5 billion worth of arms. Among them are heavy conventional weapons – including aircraft and ships – small arms, light weapons and associated parts and ammunition.
Despite the serious violations attributed to the UAE and militias it backs, the following states have recently supplied the Emiratis with arms: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the USA, among others.
Of the over 20 countries known to be supplying arms to UAE, only four, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway have recently announced suspending arms transfers to the UAE. For states parties, supplying arms to the Yemen conflict violates the Arms Trade Treaty; these transfers also breach EU law, and in many instances supplier countries' domestic law.
Elsewhere in Yemen, the UAE has directly trained and funded militias including the Security Belt and Elite Forces, which operate a shadowy network of secret prisons known as “black sites”. Amnesty International and others have previously documented these forces’ role in enforced disappearances and other violations at these facilities – including detention at gunpoint, torture with electric shocks, waterboarding, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement, squalid conditions and inadequate food and water.
Amnesty International calls on all states to stop supplying arms to all parties to the conflict in Yemen until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
“As the next round of peace talks on Yemen’s conflict looms, arms-supplying states need to reflect hard on how their arms transfers are continuing to directly and indirectly fuel war crimes and other serious violations. The proliferation of unaccountable, UAE-backed militias is worsening the humanitarian crisis and posing a growing threat to the civilian population,” said Patrick Wilcken.