Watchdog accuses Saudi-led coalition of causing lasting damage to Yemen economy
BEIRUT - Human Rights Watch said Monday that Saudi-led bombing raids against civilian factories in Yemen, which have killed scores, appear aimed at inflicting lasting economic damage to the war-ravaged country.
The New York-based watchdog called for an independent international inquiry into the air strikes as it issued a 59-page report on its own investigations into what it called illegal attacks on civilian economic sites.
The Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign against Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their allies in March last year in support of the government of UN-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
In its report titled "Bombing Businesses", Human Rights Watch said it examined "17 apparently unlawful air strikes on 13 civilian economic sites" which killed 130 civilians and wounded 171.
The coalition that also comprises Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates had "unlawfully hit numerous factories, warehouses and other civilians economic structures in Yemen," said HRW.
"In the absence of credible and impartial investigations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other coalition members should agree to an independent international inquiry into these and other allegedly unlawful attacks," it added.
The targeted facilities had employed more than 2,500 people, and hundreds of workers had "lost their livelihoods" after many of those plants were forced to close down.
"The repeated coalition air strikes on civilian factories appear intended to damage Yemen's shattered economy long into the future," said HRW's senior emergencies researcher Priyanka Motaparthy.
"Saudi Arabia and other coalition members have shown no interest in investigating unlawful attacks, or even compensating the victims for lives and property lost," said Motaparthy, who authored the report.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen when the Shiite rebels were threatening to overrun the whole country, prompting President Hadi to flee into exile.
It succeeded in pushing the Huthis out of southern cities, where Hadi's government has set up base, but the rebels retain control of most of the central and northern highlands as well as the Red Sea coast.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused the Arab coalition of bombing civilian targets and urged action to spare civilian lives.
Last month, Amnesty International and HRW called on UN member states to suspend Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council over the killing of civilians in Yemen, as well as repression at home.
More than 6,400 Yemenis have been killed since the intervention started, the majority of them civilians.