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UK rights activists call for Saudi prince’s arrest over ‘Yemen war crimes’

31 January 2018 9:00

 

Human rights activists in the United Kingdom have called on British authorities to issue a warrant for the arrest of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his imminent visit to the country for war crimes committed in Yemen.

Kim Sharif, the director of Human Rights for Yemen from London, submitted an application to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to issue the arrest warrant as the crown prince is expected to visit Britain in the coming weeks.

Sharif said the documents submitted to the court contained evidence of war crimes, witness statements regarding instances of war crimes and reports from reputable NGOs that confirmed the commission of these crimes in the war-ravaged country.

“There is jurisdiction in the UK to try war criminals and there is no immunity for such crimes, irrespective of where they have been committed. Salman is ultimately responsible for these crimes and he must be arrested for war crimes during his anticipated visit to the UK soon,” Sharif said.

Opposing Bin Salman’s imminent visit to Britain, the director of Human Rights for Yemen said that “It would not be good for us, Britain… to be receiving brutal dictators such as this man.”

“We believe that Saudi forces are committing war crimes, and violating the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols with impunity,” Sharif noted. “If he wants to submit to the UK authorities to answer to war crimes, he is welcome.”

The legal challenge comes as a coalition of human rights groups, including the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK), have asked UK Prime Minister Theresa May to withdraw an invitation extended to the Saudi crown prince to visit the UK.

“Bin Salman is the second most senior member of the Saudi regime, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Torture, arbitrary detention, and other appalling abuses are widely documented,” the coalition said in a statement.

“It shames us as a nation to support and associate with a brutal dictator who uses hunger as a weapon, and has allowed the largest cholera epidemic in history to develop in Yemen,” it added.

May had invited the crown prince and Saudi King Salman in December to visit the UK in 2018 amid the international outcry over Riyadh’s ongoing war crimes in Yemen.

Britain is a major supporter of the Saudi war on Yemen and the May government has been under fire at home and abroad for refusing to suspend British arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid its ongoing war on the impoverished country.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate the former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of the Riyadh regime.

More than 12,000 people have been killed since the onset of the campaign more than two and a half years ago. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

People gather at the site of a Saudi airstrike on the outskirts of the city of Sa’ada, Yemen, on January 22, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

 

Moreover, Riyadh has imposed a tight blockade on nearly all Yemeni air, land and sea ports, prompting human rights and charity groups to raise the alarm over the deteriorating situation in the country as people, particularly children, are increasingly suffering from the lack of food and medical supplies.

The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest count, the cholera outbreak has killed 2,167 people since the end of April and is suspected to have infected more than one million people.

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