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The United States knew about the killings of migrants by Saudi forces earlier than expected

On Sunday, following the Times report, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that “Saudi forces must immediately cease these brutal and unwarranted actions and respect international law and fundamental human rights. immigrants. »

“I asked the State Department to provide details on the extent to which the United States was aware of this trend, actions taken in response, and details regarding funding, training or support for Saudi forces. involved,” he said. “I will continue to ensure that American policy objectives and funding do not support gross human rights abuses and the murder of migrants and asylum seekers.”

Meeks and other mostly Democrats in Congress call Saudi Arabia an unreliable partner and point to its human rights record, including its years-long war in Yemen. These lawmakers will almost certainly raise new doubts about arms sales to Saudi Arabia or possible cooperation with it in a civilian nuclear program, which some US officials fear is a cover for a nuclear weapons program. Saudi officials are demanding Mr. Biden’s cooperation as a condition for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Last October, a group of UN experts sent the Saudi government a letter recounting details similar to those that Human Rights Watch would later publish. They cited allegations that border guards fired on migrants, killing up to 430 people in the first four months of the year, and raped women and girls, sending some naked back to Yemen. The United Nations made this letter public in December.

In January, Richard Mills, the US Deputy Representative to the United Nations, made a veiled reference to the issue, saying during a closed Security Council briefing on Yemen that “we remain concerned about the allegations of abuse against migrants at the border with Saudi Arabia. .”

The State Department statement released on Thursday said one of the groups that informed US diplomats based in Riyadh last summer about the killings was Mwatana, a Yemeni human rights organization. Last September, the group reported that the bodies of around 30 Yemeni and Ethiopian migrants were found on May 12, 2022, on the Saudi side of the border, some with gunshot wounds or signs of torture. Later, a State Department human rights report on Saudi Arabia’s actions last year mentioned Mwatana’s research in one paragraph.

Ben Hubbard contributed reporting from Istanbul.


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