REP LIEU CALLS FOR ANSWERS ON U.S. ROLE IN RECENT CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN YEMEN
WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) sent letters to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan asking for answers on how much the U.S. is assisting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. While the Administration rightly halted refueling assistance in November 2018, it is unclear how much the U.S. continues to assist the coalition in conducting operations and what specific forms of assistance are being provided.
In the letter, Mr. Lieu wrote:
- According to multiple reports, two airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over the last two weeks hit civilian targets in Kitaf and Sana’a and killed at least 20 people, including at least a dozen children. I previously served on active duty and taught the Law of Armed Conflict. These strikes look like additional war crimes being committed by the coalition.
- The strikes once again call into question the coalition’s killing of civilians and any role the U.S. may have played, including whether any U.S. intelligence, advice, information or weapons were used in conducting these airstrikes. We request that you provide responses to the questions below within 14 days of the date of transmission of this letter.
- On May 26, 2019, according to reports, the coalition struck a hospital operated by aid organization Save the Children in a rural area of northern Yemen, a de-conflicted site that should never have been attacked. The strike killed at least seven people, including four children, and wounded eight others. Less than two weeks later, on April 7, an airstrike was conducted in the immediate vicinity of Al-Raei school for girls in Sana’a, killing at least 13 children and wounding more than 100.
- Unfortunately, these horrific airstrikes on civilian targets are not isolated incidents but rather part of a long track record of bombing civilians at markets, weddings, schools, hospitals, funerals and other off-limits sites that have killed over 4,600 civilians since 2015. For years, these strikes were carried out in close coordination with the U.S., which sold precision-guided munitions to members of the coalition, provided regular mid-air refueling assistance and shared intelligence on targets. While the administration rightly halted refueling assistance in November 2018, it is unclear how much the U.S. continues to assist the coalition in conducting operations and what specific forms of assistance are being provided.
Congressman Lieu’s previous work on Yemen:
In March 2019, Rep. Lieu and Rep Malinowski led a letter from 13 Members of Congress urging Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to investigate reports that members of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are recruiting and deploying child soldiers in the conflict.
In January 2019, Rep. Lieu, Rep. Yoho and Rep. Malinowski introduced the Yemen Refueling Prohibition Act, which would stop the United States from providing the in-flight refueling of Saudi or Saudi-led coalition aircraft conducting missions in Yemen. The legislation comes after years of failures by both the Obama and Trump Administrations to mitigate the U.S.’s role in civilian casualties from coalition-led airstrikes.
In November 2018, Rep. Lieu issued a statement of support for the Senate's efforts to advance a bipartisan resolution to revoke U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
In August 2018, Congressman Lieu sent a letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General calling for an investigation into whether U.S. personnel supporting Saudi and Emeriti coalition operations in Yemen are violating DoD regulations, the Law of Armed Conflict, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal statutes or international law. The letter comes after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a school bus in Yemen last week. Rep. Lieu has long called for more scrutiny into the coalition’s actions in Yemen, questioning the U.S.’s efforts to ensure Saudi and Emeriti forces are actively mitigating civilian casualties and avoiding worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
In July 2018, Congressmen Lieu and Ted Yoho (R-FL) sent a letter to Senate and House Armed Services Committee leaders to express support for a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provision that would establish certification requirements for U.S. assistance to Gulf partners operating in Yemen.
In December 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed the 2018 NDAA, which included two provisions on Yemen that Rep. Lieu authored, into law. Congressman Lieu authored provisions that will bring critical congressional oversight to the conflict in Yemen for the first time. Sec. 1265 requires the Departments of Defense and State to report to Congress on whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are abiding by their commitments in Yemen. Sec. 1275 requires the President to submit a detailed report that contains a military and diplomatic strategy for Yemen.
In July 2017, the House of Representatives passed Congressman Lieu’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that requires the Departments of Defense and State to report to Congress on whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are abiding by their commitments in Yemen to avoid civilian casualties.
In May 2017, Congressmen Lieu and Ted Yoho (R-FL) called on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce to review the proposed sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. Congressman Lieu also introduced legislation to place conditions on all air-to-ground munitions sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The three conditions relate to avoiding civilian casualties, facilitating humanitarian aid, and targeting U.S.-designated terrorist organizations such as AQAP and ISIS.
In April 2017, Congressman Lieu led a letter with a bipartisan group of 30 Members of Congress to Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson requesting information related to the operational conduct of the Royal Saudi Air Force in Yemen.
In November 2016, Congressman Lieu led the Lantos Human Rights Commission in holding a hearing on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. In August 2016, Congressman Lieu led a bipartisan group of 64 Members of Congress in sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to postpone the sale of new arms to Saudi Arabia. The letter raised concerns regarding the Saudi-led Coalition’s killing of civilians. Previously, Congressman Lieu had repeatedly raised similar concerns, sending letters to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries John Kerry and Ash Carter. He also introduced legislation to establish new guidelines for weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
In April 2016, Congressman Lieu introduced a joint resolution in the House (H.J. RES 90) to provide limitations on the transfer of air-to-ground munitions from the United States to Saudi Arabia.
September 2015, Congressman Lieu sent a letter to General Joseph F. Dunford, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requesting further information about civilian deaths as a result of Saudi Arabian led coalition airstrikes in Yemen. In the letter, Congressman Lieu requested that the United States cease aiding coalition airstrikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates that they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.
In August 2015, Congressman Lieu called for the U.S. to halt its participation in coalition airstrikes in Yemen.