A series of Yemeni nationals have come to the US to file lawsuits against the American arms industry contractors Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics for two mass murders carried out by Saudi Arabia using their weapons.
The lawsuit, filed in the district court of Washington D.C, also names Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin-Salman, US Sect. of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Sect. Lloyd Austin as complicit in the act.
WaL is grateful to Mideast Eye for their reporting on the text of the lawsuit, which stated, “weapons supplied by US companies through sales unlawfully approved by US officials, allowed Saudi Arabia and the UAE through the named Defendant officials to pursue an indiscriminate and brutal bombing campaign”.
In particular, the lawsuit names the bombing of the al-Sanabani family wedding party that killed 13 women and 16 children, as well as the bombing of a crowded funeral that killed 100 people.
“The Yemeni plaintiffs are filing the lawsuit under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), a 1991 US law that allows victims of torture to sue for compensation from their tormenters if the accused are in the US.” Mideast Eye reports, who added that “the lawsuit names the Saudi and Emirati crown princes under the Alien Tort Statute which gives US federal courts jurisdiction over violations of international law”.
“While the U.S. Supreme Court has largely gutted the Alien Tort Statute (which holds US persons civilly liable for violations of international law), some senators are seeking to reinvigorate it,” writes Attorney Eian Katz who specializes in international law, at Just Security, a think tank which analyzes the legality of human foreign policy decisions.
The chance that the executive or legislative branches will do anything to punish their favorite weapons suppliers for crimes committed by the weapons they themselves pushed through Congress is a long shot, and in fact, it’s likely Biden, who has sold record amounts of weapons to foreign governments, and who threatened to veto a bill to officially end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, will shield any companies from legal backlash.
But could more lawsuits like this, or similar legal actions like sanctions and seizures become a more effective arms control method than petitioning for recourse from these companies’ national government?
Katz gives two examples; one from Europe where French weapons manufacturers Dassault Aviation, Thales, and MBDA France had complaints filed against them for possible complicity in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen, and one in the US where 13 state governments backed a complaint filed by the Mexican government against Smith & Wesson, Colt, and Glock for facilitating the trafficking of weapons to criminals in Mexico.