Saudi Border Guards Accused of Atrocities Against Migrants

Human Rights Watch says soldiers are murdering and torturing Ethiopians
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2023 9:02 AM CDT
Saudi Border Guards Accused of Torturing, Killing Migrants
In this file photo, Ethiopian migrants disembark from a boat onto the shores of Ras al-Ara, Lahj, Yemen, determined to reach oil-rich Saudi Arabia.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

A new Human Rights Watch report makes for grim reading about the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The organization accuses Saudi soldiers of raping, torturing, and killing African migrants trying to enter the oil-rich country, reports the BBC. HRW interviewed dozens of migrants from Ethiopia and examined photos and videos taken by them for its investigation. It alleges that the Saudi soldiers routinely fire rifles and artillery into large groups of people. Victims described how soldiers beat them and shoot them in the limbs— after asking where they would prefer to take the bullet. One young man described how he and another were forced to rape women in their group while the soldiers watched, and that one man who refused to participate was shot.

As the New York Times explains, the alleged atrocities are occurring "along one of the world's most dangerous smuggling routes, a patch of isolated, war-ravaged territory rarely visited by journalists, aid workers or other international observers." Impoverished people fleeing Ethiopia first make their way to Yemen, and then to the border with Saudi Arabia while shepherded by smugglers. The AP estimates that 750,000 Ethiopians live in Saudi Arabia, most of them having entered illegally.

The government has been sending thousands back home, and if the HRW allegations are shown to be true and sanctioned by the government, it would amount to a crime against humanity, per the Times. HRW called its report "They Fired on Us Like Rain," and Saudi Arabia is already disputing it. "The allegations included in the Human Rights Watch report about Saudi border guards shooting Ethiopians while they were crossing the Saudi-Yemeni border are unfounded and not based on reliable sources," says a government statement. (More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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