17:29, May 22 373 0 abajournal.com

2017-05-22 17:29:04
ABA Center for Human Rights forwards law prof’s assessment of illegality of arms deal to Senate

Further arms sales to Saudi Arabia would violate federal law, unless the country takes steps to comply with international humanitarian law, according to a law professor whose opinion was provided to the U.S. Senate by the ABA Center for Human Rights.

The center supplied the opinion by Vanderbilt University law professor Michael Newton after receiving requests for expert opinion on the subject, according to a letter sent to the Senate by Michael Pates, director of the ABA Center for Human Rights. The ABA has not adopted policy on the issues and the letter should not be construed as representing the association’s position, Pates cautioned.

President Donald Trump agreed to the $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia on Saturday, despite concerns by some human rights groups about civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, report Time, the Huffington Post and the Associated Press. Saudi Arabia is trying to drive out rebels who have seized large areas of Yemen.

The arms sales are banned by the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, according to Newton. “In the face of persistent reports of wrongdoing” in Yemen, he wrote, “Saudi Arabia has failed to rebut allegations or provide detailed evidence of compliance with binding obligations arising from international humanitarian law. “

The Foreign Assistance Act says that the United States may not provide security assistance to any country that “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The Arms Export Control Act allows arms sales to a country for certain reasons, including legitimate self-defense. Saudi Arabia has justified its military action in Yemen on grounds of self-defense, but attacks on non-military targets don’t meet the requirements that self-defense be proportionate and necessary, Newton says.

The Obama administration had also sold arms to Saudi Arabia, but curtailed some of the sales after reports indicated that a Saudi-led attack on a funeral killed more than 140 people.