Metropolitan police and US Department of Justice asked to launch war crimes investigation into 2016 funeral attack in Yemen
The family of a man killed in an attack on a funeral in Sana’a, Yemen in 2016 are seeking an inquiry into the attack, of which the Saudi-UAE coalition have admitted responsibility, citing unlawful killings, torture and war crimes.
Mr Muhammad Ali Al Rowaishan was among 137 civilians killed in an attack that left a further 695 civilians wounded, with many suffering severe burns. His uncle, Mr Nabeel Gubari (a UK national), his brother, Mr Abdulla Alrowashan, (a US citizen), and another brother, Mr Khalid Ali Saleh Al Ruwayshan (a Yemeni citizen) are seeking an investigation under the powers of universal jurisdiction, under which prosecutions for serious offences, including torture and other such war crimes, can take place even if they were carried out by foreign nationals abroad, subject to national laws.
A statement released by Gubari has said: “It is time that the people who murdered Ali and the many other innocent people on that day were made to face some consequences for their actions. They bombed a funeral. There is no excuse that can be given for what they did. We are angry and have suffered helplessly for too long. I really hope that the UK and US police take this seriously and do something about it. Too many innocent people have died for no reason and we deserve justice.”
On September 16th, lawyers representing the family submitted a complaint to the UK Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) and the US Department of Justice, the first criminal complaint filed in response to this attack. The complaint against the suspects in the UK are to be filed under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, citing crimes of torture. This provision criminalises torture if committed in the UK or abroad irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrator. In conjunction with this, the suspects may also be investigated and charged for war crimes in accordance with the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.
The lawyers leading the case, Rodney Dixon QC and Hakan Camuz of London law firm Stoke White, have provided evidence identifying four Saudi and Yemeni officials whom they have identified as having planned the attack despite possessing knowledge that those attending were civilians. The suspects, who are known to travel the US and UK, can be detained, questioned, charged and imprisoned if they fly into the UK. In a statement, Dixon announced: “There is cogent evidence that the Saudi officials who planned and carried out the attack on the community hall where the funeral was being held should be investigated for committing war crimes and torture. We need to use all legal avenues that are available to try and bring the families of those innocent people who were killed on that day some semblance of justice.”