Human Rights Watch says Saudi-led coalition naval forces have killed dozens of Yemeni fishermen, including children, and arrested more than 100 others, some of whom were tortured in custody in Saudi Arabia in 2018.
The New York City-based leading rights group said on Wednesday that Saudi-led warships and helicopters killed at least 47 Yemeni fishermen in bombing attacks on fishing boats last year. Seven children were among the dead.
“Coalition naval forces repeatedly attacked Yemeni fishing boats and Yemeni fishermen without any apparent determination that they were valid military targets,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Gunning down fishermen waving white cloths or leaving shipwrecked crew members to drown are war crimes.”
Human Rights Watch further noted that the Saudi-led coalition also detained, apparently without charge, at least 115 fishermen, including 3 children, in Saudi Arabia for between 40 days and more than two and a half years.
Seven former detainees said that Saudi authorities tortured and ill-treated apprehended fishermen and boat crew members and denied them contact with their families, legal counsel, and Yemeni government representatives.
The rights group highlighted that the Saudi-led coalition has consistently failed to investigate alleged war crimes and other unlawful attacks, including the attacks on fishing boats.
Human Rights Watch said no coalition personnel are known to have been disciplined or prosecuted for attacking Yemeni fishing boats.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.