Families of victims who lost their lives during a Saudi air strike at a funeral in Yemen have today filed a complaint with the Metropolitan Police and the US Department of Justice to investigate the bombings under the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction.
Under the principle anyone accused of committing serious international crimes could be brought to justice in UK and US courts, "irrespective of where they took place, who the perpetrator is and what their nationality is", explained Rodney Dixon QC at a press conference in London today. Dixon is acting as counsel on behalf of one of the family members of the deceased.
The notorious bombing at a funeral gathering in Yemen's capital Sanaa occurred on 8 October 2016 at Al-Kubra community hall, resulting in the death of 137 civilians and injury of almost 700. Among the victims killed was 60-year-old father of seven, Muhammad Ali Al-Rowaishan.
His uncle Nabeel Gubari, a UK national, is one of the three family members seeking justice, along with his two brothers; a US citizen and a Yemeni national residing in Istanbul. The Al-Rowaishan family are said to have lost at least 30 members in the attack.
Speaking on the cases filed today by Dixon and Stoke White solicitors, the former clarified that there were two cases made, one to the UK Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command and another to the US Department of Justice, because "the suspects who we have identified travel both to the UK and US on a regular basis, and are likely to go there again in the very near future". In addition to this, two of the family members are British and American nationals, seeking their respective law enforcement agencies to take up this case.
In the interest of maintaining confidentiality police will be conducting the case away from the public domain, the panellists said. However, the legal representatives have confirmed they currently have the names of four suspects who they believe are involved at "the very highest levels in planning, ordering and executing these attacks". They include Saudi or Yemeni officials and others may be added to the list as the investigation progresses.
Furthermore, the legal doctrine of Command Responsibility which is in place in both countries, enables prosecutions of "persons who were in command and control of those who perpetrated the acts. And either they failed to prevent those acts, or afterwards failed to investigate and punish the perpetrators", allowing them to be held responsible "as though they were the direct perpetrator".
No one has been investigated or prosecuted for the attack, making this the first complaint which has been filed under Universal Jurisdiction in the UK and US for this particular incident.
Dixon said the attacks were a place "where US manufacturers and suppliers of weapons were involved".
Stoke White solicitor Haydee Dijkstal discussed the legal implications of the victims having suffered severe burns, losing limbs and other serious injuries as potentially amounting to torture as they would have suffered "in the moments before they died". She added that the intent to murder civilians falls under war crimes statutes.
Head of the firm's International Law department Hakkan Camuz emphasised that Al-Rowaishan was not the only victim and that the team is "working through the painstaking process of finding out more information from other family members as well".
"Nobody should be able to get away with committing crimes against innocent civilians, they should be held accountable," he said.