LONDON (Dispatches) --
Human rights lawyers representing hundreds of victims of the Saudi-led war on Yemen are calling on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the so-called coalition.
British lawyer Toby Cadman filed the request Monday, highlighting three separate incidents — an August 2018 airstrike that destroyed a school bus and killed dozens; airstrikes on a funeral in Sanaa in October 2016 that killed at least 155 people; and allegations of torture and murder of civilians being held in prisons in the south of Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in Yemen in 2015 to restore fugitive president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power and crush the Ansarullah movement.
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.”
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, the Associated Press reported.
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.