ICC probe urged into Yemen war crimes

·2-min read

Human rights lawyers representing victims of Yemen's civil war are calling on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

British lawyer Toby Cadman filed the request on Monday.

He highlighted three separate incidents - an August 2018 airstrike that destroyed a school bus and killed dozens; a missile attack in October 2016 that killed at least 110 people; and allegations of torture and murder of civilians being held in prisons in the south of Yemen.

The filing came a day after a missile and drone attack, blamed on the Houthi rebels, on a key military base in Yemen's south killed at least 30 troops.

The civil war in Yemen erupted in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis swept across much of the north and seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government into exile.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war the following year on the side of the government. All sides are accused of atrocities in the yearslong conflict.

Lawyer Almudena Bernabeu, representing victims of the school bus attack, said that the coalition said it would investigate the deadly strike and bring those responsible to justice.

"Of course, they did no such thing," Bernabeu said in a statement. "As the court of last resort, victims and families have no choice but to call on the International Criminal Court to ensure justice is done."

Yemen is not a member state of the court and nor are key coalition members Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, in a 212-page written submission, the lawyers argue that the court should exercise jurisdiction because some members of the coalition are ICC member states.

A written submission filed by the lawyers says Jordan deployed fighter jets to the coalition, Senegal provided troops, while the Maldives supported it diplomatically.

The lawyers also allege that crimes were committed in Yemen by mercenaries from another ICC member state, Colombia.

"The ICC can and must use its clear jurisdiction to investigate these undeniable and evidenced crimes," said Cadman.

The ICC, set up to investigate crimes in countries that are unable or unwilling to prosecute them, receives hundreds of requests each year to open investigations.

Many are rejected as falling outside its jurisdiction, others are studied to establish whether they merit a full-scale investigation. It can take years for the court's prosecutors to decide whether to open an investigation.

Cadman said that lawyers for Yemeni victims are also looking at other ways of seeking justice.

"While our campaign begins at the International Criminal Court, we intend to fight our case using all and every legal avenue available. Those who perpetrate the worst crimes can and will be held accountable," Cadman said.

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