Italian union workers refuse to resupply Saudi weapons ship over 'Yemen war crimes'

Italian union workers refuse to resupply Saudi weapons ship over 'Yemen war crimes'
Italian union dock workers have refused to load electricity generators onto a ship carrying weapons, citing concerns about the deadly war in Yemen.
3 min read
17 February, 2020
The ship came from France [Getty]
Italian union workers refused to load electricity generators onto a Saudi ship with weapons on board as it made its way across Europe, in the latest such protest against the deadly war in Yemen.

The Bahri-Yanbu vessel loaded arms in Antwerp, Belgium earlier this month but was prevented from picking up another batch of weapons in the French port of Le Havre following protests by human rights groups.

Activists said the weapons violate a UN treaty because they could be used against civilians in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition has engaged in a brutal war against Iran-backed Houthis since 2015.

The Saudi-led offensive in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians and has been condemned worldwide by human rights groups.

Protesters gathered in Genoa with banners that read "No to war".

Unions tried to have the boat banned from Italy but the ship docked despite the attempts. However, workers refused to load two generators aboard the Saudi boat due to their possible use in the Yemen conflict.

"We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen," union leaders said in a statement, with port officials confirming the generators were blocked on the quay.

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The vessel will leave Genoa for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday.

Yemen violations

The coalition is comprised of several Sunni Arab countries but its pillars are Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of whom have since 2015 been using warplanes to strike targets in Yemen.

Since then, fighting has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, displaced millions and sparked what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition last week said it would put on trial military personal suspected of being behind deadly air strikes on civilians in Yemen, where the UN has documented numerous human rights violations.

"The judicial authorities have begun the procedures of the trial, and the judgements will be announced once they acquire the peremptory status," coalition spokesperson Turki Al-Maliki, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency, told journalists in London.

He said the trials would be based on the results of investigations by the Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT), which the coalition established but says operates independently.

The cases being investigated include a 2018 air strike on a school bus in the northern region of Dahyan that killed at least 40 children, Saudi-based Arab News said.

They also include a raid on a wedding party the same year in the Houthi-controlled Bani Qais area of Hajja province, which left 20 dead.

A 2016 deadly bombing of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), in which 19 people were killed, has also been used as evidence of civilian infrastructure being targeted by the coalition.

The coalition is committed to holding responsible "violators... of international humanitarian law - if any - in accordance with the laws and regulations of each country in the coalition", Maliki added.

The number of suspects and their nationalities were not immediately known.

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