Saudi security forces have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the country’s border with Yemen, Human Rights Watch said, shooting people at close range and firing explosive weapons at groups in the mountains in what could amount to crimes against humanity.
Migrants described Saudi border guards often patrolling with rifles, in “cars” mounted with what looked like rocket launchers and cameras tracking the movement of migrants on street lamps.
Witnesses described migrant groups of five to hundreds being attacked by mortar projectiles and other explosive weapons from the Saudi Arabian side, once they had crossed the border from Yemen. These firings or attacks would often go on for several hours to even days.
Survivors described the area being strewn with bodies of women, men and children, some severed, others injured or already dead. Saudi border guards would approach the survivors after the attack ended and detain them for several months.
In other instances, survivors were asked which limb they would like to be shot at or were beaten up with metal rods. One 17-year-old boy told HRW that Saudi border agents forced him and other survivors to rape two girl survivors and executed those who refused to comply.
The number of casualties is hard to estimate or count. But according to HRW, at least 655 migrants were killed at the hands of Saudi border guards between March 2022 and June 2023. But the actual numbers is estimated to be much higher.
RW says if the killings are systematic and widespread they would account for crimes against humanity, and part of a state policy to deliberately murder a civilian population.
The migrants face a harrowing journey to finding stability as the migrant route is rife with abuses. Much of the migrant route in Yemen is controlled by Houthi rebels who have also been accused of torturing, extorting, murdering, and raping migrants.
With regards to Saudi Arabia, it has previously refuted allegations of mass killings saying that they have no evidence of it happening whatsoever.
While the oil-rich nation continues to be accused of violating human rights at home and abroad, it has also sought to distract the world from the accusations by hosting a range of international events from Formula One motorsport to purchasing Newcastle United, an English Premier League Football team.