Victims of alleged war crimes in Yemen have demanded that American authorities act on what they say is “compelling evidence” of offenses by American mercenaries acting under the direction of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On Wednesday, lawyers representing Abdullah Suliman Abdullah Daubalah and Salah Muslem Salem held a press conference in London to announce they had filed a complaint along with evidence they had collected of the alleged crimes.
The team urged U.S., British and Turkish authorities to open investigations and even arrest accused American mercenaries or the UAE officials said to have directed them.
The lawyers did not identify those involved, but said the UAE officials were “high ranking officials” in the government and ministry of defense, while at least some of the Americans involved have worked for the Spear Operations Group.
Those accused live in either the U.S. or the UAE but are known to travel to the U.K. regularly, the complaint said. The legal team has submitted its evidence to the U.S. and Turkish justice ministries and Britain’s Metropolitan Police.
The submission says that those responsible can be detained under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, which allows nations to investigate or prosecute those accused of war crimes regardless of their nationality or where the incidents occurred.
Newsweek has contacted the UAE embassies in Washington, D.C. and London, and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs to request comment on the allegations. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.
Both Daubalah and Salem claim to have been targeted because of their affiliation to the Al-Islah Party, the Yemeni affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood organization which is a designated terrorist group in the UAE. Salem’s complaint relates to his brother—Jameel Moslem Salem Batis—who was assassinated in the city of Seiyun in 2019.
Daubalah survived a bomb attack on Islah’s headquarters in Aden in 2015. According to a 2018 BuzzFeed report, American mercenaries working for the Spear group have admitted responsibility for the operation.
The mercenaries were reportedly hired by Palestinian operative Mohammed Dahlan, who the complaint says is a “key advisor” to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
They were “supplied their orders—in the form of a hit list—as well as weaponry, by uniformed military officers of the UAE Armed Forces,” the submission reads. The mercenaries were then “flown into Yemen by the UAE Air Force and briefed about their mission and orders by a uniformed officer.”
The Yemenis also allege that the UAE and its foreign mercenaries from nations including the U.S. and Colombia engaged in arbitrary detention, “systematic” abuse and torture of prisoners.
“I cannot fathom why the states have not investigated these blatant criminal acts.” said Hakan Camuz, the head of International Law at the Stoke White legal firm representing the complainants. He added it is important to act against the increasingly “popular” use of mercenaries by nations that wish to “hide their faces.”
Haydee Dijkstal, a U.S. barrister, said the U.S. government has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute any Americans suspected of war crimes abroad. “There’s a serious issue of impunity,” she explained. “What we are doing is asking the U.S. government to take serious steps to initiate an investigation.”
This article has been updated to include a response from the Department of Justice.