Italy unions refuse to load Saudi ship in protest of Yemen war
Italian unions refused on Monday to load electricity generators onto a Saudi Arabian ship with weapons on board in a protest against the war in Yemen.
The Bahri-Yanbu vessel loaded arms in the Belgian city of Antwerp earlier this month, but was prevented from picking up another consignment of weapons in the French port of Le Havre following protests by humanitarian groups.
Rights campaigners say the weapons contravene a U.N. treaty because they might be used against civilians in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition is battling the Iran-backed Houthis in a war that has killed thousands.
Unions in Genoa had tried to have the boat banned from Italy, but the ship docked just after dawn, met by a handful of protesters who gathered on the quay.
“No to war” read one of their banners.
Union workers refused to load two generators aboard the boat, saying that although they were registered for civilian use, they could be instead directed to the Yemen war effort.
“We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen,” union leaders said in a statement. Port officials confirmed the generators were blocked on the quay, but said non-critical goods would be loaded.
The vessel was expected to leave Genoa for Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, later in the day.
Saudi Arabia started its Yemen military campaign in March 2015 . Four years of war have devastated the country. According to the UN, at least 7,000 civilians have been killed. Thousands of others have died due to disease, poor health care and malnutrition.
The blockade Saudi Arabia imposed on Yemen steadily worsened the country’s hunger problem and health-care crisis. The country is on the brink of a famine. It’s a shame that even when the ceasefire was holding, the Saudis did not halt bombing Yemen. Saudi Arabia appears to be frustrated that it is not able to defeat the Houthis even after years of heavy bombing.