HRW calls for inquiry into Saudi bombing of civilian factories

A recent report by Human Rights Watch documents the Saudi-led coalition’s targeting of Yemen’s factories, warehouses, and other civilian economic structures. Titled “Bombing Businesses: Saudi Coalition Airstrikes on Yemen’s Civilian Economic Structures,” the report lists 17 apparently unlawful airstrikes on 13 civilian economic sites and calls on Saudi Arabia and other coalition members to agree to an independent international inquiry into these attacks. The bombings struck commercial warehouses, a farm, two power facilities, and a number of factories, including a mineral water factory and a Coca-Cola plant, in the governorates of Lahj, San’a, and al-Hudaydah. None of these structures have been shown to be legitimate military targets. The bombings documented by Human Rights Watch killed 130 civilians and injured 171 more.

Prior to the attacks, the facilities employed over 2,500 people, many of whom now have no source of income. The strikes on factories also contributed to the already severe shortages of food, medicine, and other supplies critical to the 20 million Yemenis in desperate need of aid.

The report states that the targeting of civilian economic structures “raises serious concerns that the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately sought to inflict widespread damage to Yemen’s production capacity.”

The repeated coalition airstrikes on civilian factories appear intended to damage Yemen’s shattered economy long into the future...Saudi Arabia and other coalition members have shown no interest in investigating unlawful attacks, or even compensating the victims for lives and property lost.” -Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher and author of the report

“The laws of war prohibit deliberate attacks on civilian objects, attacks that do not discriminate between military targets and civilian objects, and attacks that disproportionately harm civilian objects compared with the expected military gain,” says Human Rights Watch. “Attacks on civilian objects committed willfully – deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.”

Human Rights Watch is calling for investigations into these possible war crimes and for Saudi Arabia to be suspended from membership on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

A number of humanitarian organizations have previously called for independent inquiries into Saudi war crimes in Yemen, but investigations have either been blocked or have been conducted by Saudi Arabia itself, prompting skepticism about the reports’ conclusions.

Saudi Arabia was recently included on a UN report of groups violating children’s rights in conflict, but was quickly removed after Saudi government officials threatened to withhold funds from UN aid programs if it was not taken off the blacklist.