The panel cited many other possible war crimes. For instance, “Individuals in the coalition, in particular Saudi Arabia, may have conducted airstrikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.” Moreover, “Individuals in the coalition have conducted indiscriminate attacks using indirect‐fire weapons.” Yemeni government officials “have conducted indiscriminate attacks using indirect‐fire weapons and used anti‐personnel landmines.”
It is bad enough that perpetrators of these barbarities are routinely feted by the White House. It’s far worse that American officials in both the Obama and Trump administrations are directly complicit in these war crimes. The perpetrators should all be prosecuted. Best would be in individual national courts, as the U.S. should have done with Bush administration officials who tortured prisoners. Doing so would have helped atone for Washington’s atrocious behavior and regain global credibility.
Another option would be the International Criminal Court. However, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Yemen all reject the ICC’s jurisdiction; Iran and the UAE have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. In contrast, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, also cited by the experts group, have accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction. Their officials could be charged. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to sanction any members of its staff who investigated U.S. personnel but so far has made no similar effort to cover up related crimes by other nations. In any case, the panel could share the results of its investigation with any country courageous enough to prosecute.
As a last resort, other nations could assert universal jurisdiction over war crimes suspects. Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain all have brought or could bring charges of that sort. Given Washington’s sanctions on Germany’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas project with Russia, Berlin’s prosecution of Trump administration officials for aiding war crimes in Yemen would seem particularly appropriate.
Admittedly, such extraterritoriality is far from ideal, but so long as America did not extradite its citizens—which is unlikely politically—the primary impact would be to sully reputations and discourage international travel. Although minimal penalties, they would still highlight Washington’s criminal responsibility. The target should be civilian policymakers rather than uniformed personnel carrying out the former’s instructions—perversely pitched in the U.S. as helping to reduce casualties.
The war in Yemen is an embarrassment to America, an act of blatant aggression by brutal dictatorships that pretend to be close U.S. allies. Sharing responsibility for this crime are former President Barack Obama and perhaps former Vice President Joe Biden. A couple dozen former Obama staffers published an open letter two years ago admitting: “We did not intend U.S. support to the coalition to become a blank check.” So far no one from the Trump administration has expressed similar regrets.
The Saudi/Emirati aggression against Yemen is almost one continuous war crime. The perpetrators should be prosecuted. The time for immunity is over. The time for imposing responsibility is now.