A report from Human Rights Watch says that Saudi Arabian security forces shot down and killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrant people who were trying to cross into the Saudi border from Yemen in the last year.

Human Rights Watch claims that if the Saudi government was involved and aware of the killings, which involved shooting machine guns and explosive weapons, the systematic killings would be “a crime against humanity.”

What does the Human Rights Watch report say about Saudi security?

The 73-page report was released Monday and alleges that “Saudi border guards first asked survivors in which limb of their body they preferred to be shot, before shooting them at close range.”

“The shooting went on and on,” 21-year-old Mustafa Soufia Mohammed told BBC. “I didn’t even notice I was shot, but when I tried to get up and walk, part of my leg was not with me.”

After a massive grain theft scheme, food is slowly returning to Ethiopia

The report included testimony from 38 Ethiopians who attempted crossing the the Yemen-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023, as well as four relatives of people who tried to cross the border. Included with the witness testimony, the report also has “350 videos and photos of wounded and killed migrants, and satellite imagery showing the location of Saudi Arabian guard posts,” Reuters reported.

“What we documented are essentially mass killings,” Nadia Hardman, the report’s lead author, told BBC. “People described sites that sound like killing fields — bodies strewn all over the hillside.”

What’s going on in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia and Yemen are considered two of the poorest countries in the world, both of which have also been mired in conflict the last few years. The civil war is centered in the Tigray region where government troops are fighting against Tigrayan forces that are fighting for independence. The conflict has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, per BBC.

View Comments

Ethiopian migrants have fled to escape war, poverty and hunger. Currently, Saudi Arabia has 750,000 Ethiopians living in the country — “450,000 likely having entered the kingdom without authorization,” according to Time.

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have partnered on trading and training in the past, with U.S. service personnel having “trained Saudi security forces, including the border guard, as part of the long-standing security assistance mission there,” The Washington Post reported.

Saudi government responded to the report with a statement that said, “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,” per The New York Times.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have not responded to requests for comment, and Ethiopia has not released an official response as of yet.

When peace talks don’t actually bring peace in Ethiopia
Opinion: The genocide nobody is talking about
Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.