Since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemeni conflict on behalf of its ousted president, at least 4,125 civilians have been killed, most in coalition bombings, Human Rights Watch says in its annual report.
The organization paints a grim picture of the situation, saying that Western backers of the intervention, particularly the US and Britain, don’t appear to be willing to investigate alleged war crimes perpetrated by the coalition, despite mounting evidence.
"Foreign governments have continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite growing evidence the coalition has been committing unlawful airstrikes. US and UK lawmakers, whose governments altogether approved more than $20 billion and $4 billion worth of weapons sales, respectively to Saudi Arabia in 2015 alone, have increasingly challenged the continuation of these sales,” the report said.
The Saudi coalition’s continued operation in Yemen depends to a high degree on support from the US and UK, which provide weapons, targeting intelligence, air refueling for coalition jets, and diplomatic cover for the entire campaign, believes Abayomi Azikiwe, an editor for Pan-African News Wire. This may explain why the Yemeni situation is getting relatively little news coverage in those countries, he told.
"The war is largely hidden from the people who live in the Western countries. Here in the United States, there is virtually no information, particularly on television news sources. And the same situation largely exists in Britain as well,” he said, adding "it is an unsustainable and an unjustifiable position that the United States and Britain have taken in this war.”
According to October figures from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 4,125 civilians and left at least 7,207 wounded, with the majority of the casualties resulting from coalition airstrikes.
HRW has documented "58 apparently unlawful coalition airstrikes” that have killed nearly 800 civilians. The Saudi coalition has hit homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian buildings, and mosques. Among the deadliest attacks in 2016 was the bombing of a market in northern Yemen on March 15 that killed 97 civilians, and the October bombing of a funeral in the capital, Sanaa, in which 100 perished.
The report says Saudi Arabia may be deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Yemen, which, if true, would constitute a war crime.
The coalition-imposed naval and aerial blockade in Yemen is contributing to a humanitarian disaster in the country because it prevents the delivery of vital supplies like fuel and medicine and makes relief efforts more difficult, the report said.
Saudi Arabia has also reportedly threatened to defund UN programs in order to make it remove it from the ‘list of shame,’ which includes parties responsible for grave children’s rights violations. According to UN figures, coalition strikes were the cause of 60 percent of children deaths in Yemen and half of attacks on schools and hospitals.
The report also accuses the primary opponents of the Saudi-led coalition, the Houthi rebels and their allies, of carrying out indiscriminate attacks, using internationally-banned anti-personnel landmines, forced disappearances, torturing their critics, and recruiting child soldiers.