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March 2023 - Ongoing

Civil complaint by Yemeni nationals to seek injunctive relief and damages

Jurisdiction

United States of America

Locale

Armed Conflict in Yemen

Recipient State

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates

Case Type

Civil Proceedings

Status

Ongoing

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Overview

On 2 March 2023, a group of seven Yemeni nationals filed a lawsuit in the district court of Washington DC in the US. The plaintiffs have brought this action on their own behalf, and of others similarly harmed by the strikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition in Yemen. The plaintiffs specifically represent the victims of two separate bombings in the country: a wedding in Sanaban on 7 October 2015 and a funeral in Sana’a on 8 October 2016.  

The lawsuit has been brought against defence contractors Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics on the grounds that they “knowingly benefit from aiding and abetting the indiscriminate airstrikes conducted by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition targeting Yemeni civilians”. 

It also names the following Saudi Arabian and UAE military officials as defendants because “each of them knowingly perpetrated war crimes, extra-judicial killings, and other crimes against the plaintiffs and other civilians”: Mohamed Ben Zayed Al-Nahyan in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the UAE; Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in his capacity as the Vice President, Prime Minister, and Minister of Defence of the UAE; Mohamed Bin Salman Al Saoud in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Hamad Mohamed Thani Al Rumaithi in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces; Abdulrahman Ben Saleh Al-Bunyan in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the Saudi Armed Forces until February 2018; and Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the Saudi Armed Forces since February 2018.  

The complaint also named US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin, because they were responsible for the decisions to approve arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition that helped perpetuate the conflict, the failure to evaluate the consequences of these sales, and the neglect of the “widespread violations of international law” in Yemen.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss in October 2023, to which the plaintiffs responded in February 2024. The defendants are currently in the process of replying to the plaintiffs’ response. The government defendants and defence contractors’ submitted their reply in April 2024.     

Case Details

The submitted arguments proceeded on eight counts, with the plaintiffs claiming:  

First, injunctive relief and monetary damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) against the named leaders of the Saudi Arabian and UAE military forces, on the basis that they knowingly committed war crimes and extrajudicial killings, including against the plaintiffs.  

Second, the Saudi Arabian and UAE officials violated the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) by conducting extrajudicial killings without any judicial proceedings or legal processes.  

Third, injunctive relief and monetary damages under the ATS against the named US defence contractors. The complaint states that the Saudi and UAE officials violated international law by committing war crimes, extrajudicial killings, and torture against the plaintiffs, and that the defence contractors’ supply of weapons to the former significantly allowed for the aiding and abetting of the stated crimes.   

Fourth, the named defence contractors violated the TVPA by intentionally aiding and abetting the Saudi and UAE officials in committing extrajudicial killings and violating international law.  

Fifth, injunctive relief based on the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against the US Departments of State and Defence on the basis that the decisions to approve arms sales were arbitrary and capricious because there is no evidence to show that the Houthis are an “existing threat to US national security, or that they are premeditating attacks in the US territory”. As such, these decisions are in violation of various US statutes inter alia the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.  

Sixth, the defence contractors have been “unjustly enriched” because of the large profits obtained from the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE that were misused.  

Seventh, all defendants failed to exercise due care by failing to supervise, prohibit, control, or regulate their employees and/or agents, and are therefore liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiffs.  

Eighth, the defence contractors as well as the Saudi and UAE military officials intentionally and continually inflicted emotional distress and physical damage, by participating in the venture of the sale of weapons used to commit the aforementioned crimes.  

Timeline

02 Mar 2023

Complaint filed in the district court of Washington DC in the US seeking injunctive relief and damages.

Read complaint here

05 Oct 2023

US government defendants file motion to dismiss.

Read the submission here

19 Oct 2023

Defence contractors named in complaint file motion to dismiss.

Read motions to dismiss here

28 Feb 2024

Plaintiffs respond to motions to dismiss.

Read plaintiffs' response here

04 Apr 2024

US government replies to plaintiffs’ response to motion to dismiss.

Read full reply here

Case Documents

28/02/2024

Plaintiffs respond to defendants’ motion to dismiss

Read the document in full

02/03/2023

Class Complaint for injunctive relief and damges

Read the document in full

19/10/2023

Defence contractors Motion to Dismiss

Read the document in full

04/04/2024

US government replies to plaintiffs’ response to motion to dismiss

Read the document in full

05/10/2023

US Government Motion to Dismiss

Read the document in full

Analysis

01 December 2023

Arms Sales: The Yemen Example

Terrence P. Collingsworth | Democracy Journal

This article examines the legal structure in place to prevent the sale of arms to foreign countries that could be used for an improper purpose.

02 March 2023

Yemenis sue top US defence contractors for 'aiding war crimes'

Umar A Farooq | Middle East Eye

This article provides coverage of the complaint against the US defence contractors Saudi Arabia and UAE military officials, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin. brought by seven Yemeni nationals.

04 June 2022

Saudi-led Airstrikes in Yemen Have Been Called War Crimes. Many Relied on US Support.

Joyce Sohyun Lee, Meg Kelly, and Atthar Mirza | Washington Post

Analysis conducted by the Washington Post reveals the extent of US support provided to air force squadrons involved in the Saudi-led Coalition’s campaign in Yemen.

21 July 2021

Biden's DOJ Is Using A Ridiculous Argument To Defend A Controversial Trump-Era Arms Deal

Akbar Shahid Ahmed | Huffington Post

This article critiques the argument put forth by the US administration that the sales of arms to the UAE are disconnected from ongoing human rights abuses by its forces.

12 January 2021

Lawsuit Threatens $23bn Weapons Sale to UAE

Joe Gould | Defense News

This article provides coverage of the complaint against the US State Department for arms sales to the UAE.

30 December 2020

Pompeo and State Department Face Legal Action over $23bn UAE Arms Sale

Sheren Khalel | Middle East Eye

This article outlines the initial complaint submitted by the NYCFPA in December 2020.

29 December 2020

Trump Administration Facing Legal Action over ‘Rushed’ Sale of Arms to UAE

Samuel Lovett | The Independent

This article provides an overview of the case introduced by NYCFPA, and the main aspects of their argument and opposition to the decision of the Secretary of State.

Contact the Claimants

The claim has been brought by seven Yemeni nationals who are being represented by Terrence Collingsworth of International Rights Advocates York. The plaintiffs represent the victims of two separate bombings in the country: a wedding in Sanaban on 7 October 2015 and a funeral in Sana’a on 8 October 2016.

If you would like to know more about this case, please get in touch with our primary contact Terrence Collingsworth by email.