While Backed by US, Saudi Coalition Accused of War Crime in Yemen

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While Backed by US, Saudi Coalition Accused of War Crime in Yemen

New report from Human Rights Watch investigates bombings that killed at least 65 civilians in the city of Mokha on Friday

A residence that houses workers of the Mokha Steam Power Plant and their families after it was destroyed by Saudi-led coalition bombings on 24, 2015. (Photo: Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch)

The Saudi Arabia-led military coalition—which is backed by the United States—committed an "apparent war crime" when they bombed residential housing in the Yemeni city of Mokha on Friday, killing at least 65 civilians and wounding dozens more, Human Rights Watch declared on Monday.

"The Saudi-led coalition repeatedly bombed company housing with fatal results for several dozen civilians," said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher for HRW, of the attack that claimed ten children among its victims. "With no evident military target, this attack appears to be a war crime."

However, HRW said there are no signs that Yemen's government or any coalition partners are investigating the attack, which struck residential compounds that house family and workers of the Mokha Steam Power Plant on Friday.

"Again and again, we see coalition airstrikes killing large numbers of civilians, but no signs of any investigation into possible violations," said Solvang.

Researchers with the rights group who visited the aftermath of the attack saw craters and destroyed buildings that indicate multiple bombs "had struck the plant’s main residential compound, which housed at least 200 families." Another bomb tore through a separate compound that also housed temporary workers.

"After the third strike the entire building began to collapse on top of us," Wajida Ahmed Najid, the wife of a plant employee who lived in one of the compounds targeted, told researchers. "Then I knew we needed to leave because it was not safe to stay. I grabbed my girls and we started running in the direction of the beach, but as we were running pieces of metal were flying everywhere and one hit Malak, my 9-year-old daughter. Thank God she is going to be okay. While we were running I saw bodies, seven of them, just lying on the ground, in pieces."

HRW noted that the civilian death toll could be higher than 65, with many people still reported missing. In the following video, resident after resident testifies that there was no reason for the coalition to target them. "This is a dirty war," said a resident of one of the buildings whose name is not revealed in the video. Warning: video contains disturbing images.

The Saudi-led military coalition includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and Sudan. While the United States and United Kingdom both say they are not formally part of the coalition, they are both providing direct assistance—including logistics and intelligence—as well as serving as major weapons suppliers for the campaign.

Since the bombing campaign began nearly four months ago, the coalition has bombed homes, schools, warehouses storing humanitarian aid, and refugee camps, killing at least  1,693 civilians and wounding another 3,829, according to the estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The bombings and naval blockade have touched off an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis as residents of the impoverished country are cut off from water, food, and medical aid.

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