The failure of Saudi Arabia and other coalition members to investigate apparently unlawful airstrikes in Yemen demonstrates the need for the United Nations Human Rights Council to create a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of laws-of-war violations by the coalition, the Houthis, and other parties to the conflict, Human Rights Watch said.
“The Saudi-led coalition repeatedly bombed company housing with fatal results for several dozen civilians,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher. “With no evident military target, this attack appears to be a war crime.”
Human Rights Watch visited the area of the attack a day-and-a-half later. Craters and building damage showed that six bombs had struck the plant’s main residential compound, which housed at least 200 families, according to the plant’s managers. One bomb had struck a separate compound for short-term workers about a kilometer north of the main compound, destroying the water tank for the compounds, and two bombs had struck the beach and an intersection nearby.
Bombs hit two apartment buildings directly, collapsing part of their roofs. Other bombs exploded between the buildings, including in the main courtyard, stripping the exterior walls off dozens of apartments, leaving only the load-bearing pillars standing.
Workers and residents at the compounds told Human Rights Watch that one or more aircraft dropped nine bombs in separate sorties in intervals of a few minutes. All of the bombs appeared intended for the compounds and not another objective.
Human Rights Watch saw no signs that either of the two residential compounds for the power plants were being used for military purposes. Over a dozen workers and residents said that there had been no Houthi or other military forces at the compounds. The power plant and the compound were built in 1986.
Early in the morning of July 25, a news ticker on Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi-owned media outlet, reported that coalition forces had attacked a military air defense base in Mokha. Human Rights Watch identified a military facility about 800 meters southeast of the Mokha Steam Power Plant’s main compound, which plant workers said had been a military air defense base. The plant workers said that it had been empty for months, and Human Rights Watch saw no activity or personnel at the base from the outside, except for two guards.
Bagil Jafar Qasim, director general of the plant, provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 65 people killed in the attack, including 10 children. The list included two people still missing, whom Qasim believed were buried under the rubble and probably dead. Human Rights Watch visited three hospitals in Hodaida that had received 42 wounded from the attack. Several, including an 11-year-old girl, were in critical condition.
Wajida Ahmed Najid, 37, a resident in one of the compounds whose husband is a plant employee, said that when the first strike hit, she grabbed her children close and they huddled together hoping the danger would pass:
After the third strike the entire building began to collapse on top of us. Then I knew we needed to leave because it was not safe to stay. I grabbed my girls and we started running in the direction of the beach, but as we were running pieces of metal were flying everywhere and one hit Malak, my 9-year-old daughter. Thank God she is going to be okay. While we were running I saw bodies, seven of them, just lying on the ground, in pieces.
A doctor at the hospital told Human Rights Watch that they had removed a metal fragment from Malak’s abdomen.