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HRW: It’s Saudi Policy to ‘Murder Migrants’

by | Aug 21, 2023

HRW: It’s Saudi Policy to ‘Murder Migrants’

by | Aug 21, 2023

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FILE - Saudi soldiers occupy a position on Mt. Doud, Jan. 27, 2010, a high strategic position in the southern Saudi province of Jizan, near the border with Yemen.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that Saudi border forces are systematically murdering migrants attempting to cross into the Kingdom from Yemen. The monitoring group said killing refugees had become an official policy of Riyadh. 

“Saudi border guards have killed at least hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers who tried to cross the Yemen-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023,” Human Rights Watch said on Monday. “If committed as part of a Saudi government policy to murder migrants, these killings, which appear to continue, would be a crime against humanity.”

The HRW report details horrific abuses by Saudi forces, including torture and murder. “Saudi border guards have used explosive weapons to kill many migrants and shot other migrants at close range, including many women and children, in a widespread and systematic pattern of attacks.” It continues, “In some instances, Saudi border guards asked migrants what limb to shoot, and then shot them at close range.”

The human rights monitoring organization says hundreds of migrants, primarily people from Ethiopia, have been killed by the Saudi troops attempting to cross from Yemen. Saudi Arabia has waged war in Yemen since 2015 and committed a multitude of human rights abuses during its military campaign. 

Those atrocities included killing migrants attempting to flee Riyadh’s indiscriminate bombing campaign of its southern neighbor. HRW finds that those atrocities have been on the rise in the past year. “While HRW has documented killings of migrants at the border with Yemen and Saudi Arabia since 2014, the killings appear to be a deliberate escalation in both the number and manner of targeted killings,” Monday’s report noted. 

The finding from HRW is similar to those in a report released by the Mixed Migration Center (MMC) last month. “Large numbers of Ethiopian migrants are systematically being killed on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia on a daily basis, directly and deliberately by security officials operating under Saudi Arabian state authority,” the group said in July. “The targeted nature and scale of these killings and the fact that the perpetrators are operating under state authority make this border crossing an exceptionally lethal one.”

The report could present problems for the Joe Biden White House. As Kiev struggles on the battlefield, Washington has turned to the Middle East to make a foreign policy accomplishment prior to the 2024 election. The Biden administration hopes to broker an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

Further, as a candidate, Biden pledged to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for crimes the government was committing, including the murder of a Washington Post journalist and the war in Yemen. However, as president, Biden has failed to hold Riyadh to account. Adam Johnson explains in an article published on Monday that the US has trained and armed the Saudi border forces responsible for committing crimes against refugees. 

An agreement by Riyadh and Tel Aviv would be celebrated as a peace deal in Washington. However, Israel and Saudi Arabia are two of the most repressive governments in the world, and any agreement with the US would involve weapons transfers to both Mid East nations. Any “normalization” deals between Tel Aviv and Riyadh will likely lead Israel to increase its apartheid control over Palestinians and allow Riyadh to continue to commit a laundry list of war crimes in Yemen. 


Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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