Saudi-led funeral attack in Yemen a 'war crime'

Saudi-led funeral attack in Yemen a 'war crime'
Following a deadly attack on a funeral in Sanaa on Saturday, Human Rights Watch has called for an immediate and transparent investigation, calling for Riyadh to be held accountable.
3 min read
13 October, 2016
Over 140 people were killed in airstrikes on a funeral in Sanaa on Saturday [Getty]

A purported Saudi-led coalition airstrike that struck a packed funeral in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Saturday constitutes as a war crime, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

According to the international rights group a disproportionate number of the hundreds of victims killed in the attack were civilians, while remnants of US-manufactured munitions were found at the scene of the attack.

Saturday’s funeral saw mourners gather to pay respects to the father of Houthi interior minister in the Haddah neighbourhood of Sanaa, with many Houthi officials in attendance.

The Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, which has been conducting airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015, supports the exiled government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, against the Houthis who are reportedly backed by Iran and pledge allegiance to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Calls for investigation

Speaking on Thursday Leah Wilson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director, called for an international investigation into the “atrocity”.

Since the attack Saudi Arabia has said that it will conduct its own investigation into the attack having initially denied responsibility.

However rights groups who have long argued that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have targeted civilians and medical facilities, have little faith in Riyadh conducting its own investigation transparently. An investigation carried out by Saudi Arabia into coalition airstrikes in Yemen earlier this year concluded that they had "adhered to international humanitarian law".

According to the UN in the 19 months since Yemen’s war began, 10,000 people have been killed, three million have been displaced, while 60 percent of all civilian deaths have been attributed to coalition airstrikes.

A coalition blockade on the country has further lead to legitimate concerns that famine could spread in what is the poorest country in the Middle East region.

Human Rights Watch also called on the UK and the US, both of which have sold billions of dollars in military hardware to Saudi Arabia since Riyadh launched aerial operations in Yemen, to stop its arms sales immediately.

Read also: Britain's dark shadow looms over Yemen funeral tragedy

An escalation in conflict

Since Saturday’s deadly attack, there have been concerns of an escalation of the conflict. Thousands took to the streets on Sanaa on Sunday to protest the attack while Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for renewed attacks on Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday a US warship launched Tomahawk cruise missiles destroying three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The Pentagon described the attacks as retaliatory after two incidents earlier in the week in which missiles were fired from Houthi-held territory in Yemen on US Navy vessels near the Bab al-Manbij straits.

However the Houthis have since denied accusations that they have targeted US Naval ships, despite claiming responsibility for a similar attack on a United Arab Emirates vessel off the coast of Yemen last week, as “baseless”.

“The (rebel-allied) army and the Popular Committees have nothing to do with this action,” a Houthi official was quoted as saying in the Houthi-controlled Saba newspaper on Thursday.