South Africa is halting its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which are accused of handing over some of the purchased weapons to armed militia in Yemen, violating a provision of the deal prohibiting the transfer of imported arms to third parties.
Citing four unnamed officials and some obtained letters, Reuters reported Friday that according to the clause in export documents, foreign customers are also required to allow South African officials to inspect their facilities to verify compliance.
It added that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which account for at least a third of South Africa’s arms exports, have rejected such inspections, considering them a violation of their sovereignty.
Ezra Jele, South Africa’s director for conventional arms control in the defense ministry, said the country’s authorities considered criteria including human rights, regional conflict, risk of diversion, UN Security Council resolutions, and national interest when evaluating applications for export permits.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies, including the UAE, launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of reinstating former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and crushing the Ansarullah movement, which is a significant aid to the Yemeni army in defending the country against the invaders.
Back in February, Amnesty International accused Abu Dhabi of transferring arms purchased from Western and other states to militias accused of war crimes in Yemen. In the same month, a CNN investigation said Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had handed American weapons to Hadi’s militia.
The Saudi-imposed war has taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million people are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000 lives over the past four and a half years.