Europe’s involvement in war crimes in Yemen: Stop Arms Exports and End Impunity

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Guillaume Périgois via Unsplash

Berlin, Sana’a, 23 March 2023. Eight years ago, on 26 March 2015, the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition launched the aerial campaign “Decisive Storm”, escalating the conflict in Yemen and, with it, the suffering of the civilian population. With the upcoming anniversary of the bombardment campaign, 32 organisations are renewing their call to hold European state actors and European arms companies accountable for their involvement in possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The organisations are demanding that:

 Investigations into the criminal responsibility of European authorities and arms companies be conducted both at the national level and the international level by the International Criminal Court (ICC);
 Arms exports and military support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which continue to this day, be stopped immediately;
 Licensing procedures and export licenses also be reviewed retroactively, as export licenses must not be allowed to function as authorisations to continue human rights violations with impunity;

The international community must finally step in decisively to prevent further violations and prosecute those actors who have committed or contributed to potential war crimes and crimes against humanity. With respect to all warring parties accused of human rights violations, the United Nations must establish an international criminal accountability mechanism whose mandate includes investigating human rights and international humanitarian law violations and submitting public reports on the human rights situation in Yemen, as well as collecting, preserving, and analysing evidence, and building files for future criminal prosecution.

As negotiations for the continuation of the almost year-long ceasefire failed in October 2022, the spiral of violence could escalate again at any time, further worsening the already dire situation for civilians.

To this day the conflict has already claimed over 300,000 lives, and more than four million people have been internally displaced. Over 23 million Yemenis are dependent upon humanitarian aid, yet access to these aid provisions, along with water, food and medical supplies, has been obstructed by conflict-related damage to civil infrastructure, as well as by the deliberate actions of warring parties. The Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen has had severe human rights impacts on the civilian population, while the bombing of civilian infrastructure by the Saudi-led military coalition is in clear breach of international law.

Already in 2019, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Mwatana for Human RightsAmnesty International, the Campaign Against Arms TradeCentre Delàs and Rete Disarmo together filed a Communication to the ICC, reconstructing in precise detail 26 Saudi airstrikes against civilians – in apparent violation of international law – in which European armaments were deployed. In addition, criminal complaints have also been filed at the national level. Despite well-documented violations and clear evidence of Europe’s involvement in possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen, impunity still continues to this day.

The response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine demonstrates that the international community is capable of investigating potential international crimes. The people of Yemen also deserve the same degree of international engagement in efforts to prosecute those responsible for the serious crimes and human rights violations that have been and are being committed against them.

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  • Co-signatories

    1. Mwatana for Human Rights (Yemen)
    2. Campaign Against Arms Trade – CAAT (United Kingdom)
    3. Amnesty International France (France)
    4. Centre Delàs (Spain)
    5. European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (Germany)
    6. Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo (Italy)
    7. International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland)
    8. Control Arms (United States)
    9. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (United States)
    10. World Organisation Against Torture (United States)
    11. Vredesactie (Belgium)
    12. PAX (Netherlands)
    13. Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation (United States)
    14. Stop Fuelling War, Cessez d’alimenter la Guerre (France)
    15. International Federation for Human Rights (France)
    16. Stop Wapenhandel (Netherlands)
    17. MENA Rights Group (Switzerland)
    18. Shadow World Investigations (United Kingdom)
    19. International Center for Transitional Justice (United States)
    20. Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (Sweden)
    21. Aktion Aufschrei – Stoppt den Waffenhandel! (Germany)
    22. Sherpa (France)
    23. Osservatorio permanente sulle armi leggere e le politiche di sicurezza e difesa (Italy)
    24. Pax christi Germany (Germany)
    25. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    26. Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights (United Kingdom)
    27. Arms Information Centre (Germany)
    28. Amnesty International Italy (Italy)
    29. ACAT-France (France)
    30. Internationaler Versöhnungsbund, österreichischer Zweig (Austria)
    31. Pax Christi Österreich (Austria)
    32. International Secretariat Amnesty International

  • Member organisations - Yemen
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    Saudi Arabia Bahrain United Arab Emirates Iraq Iran Kuwait Oman Qatar Syria Yemen
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