Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry to monitor and report on the situation on human rights in Yemen and carry out a comprehensive examination of international crimes and human rights violations committed in the country.
Toby Cadman, co-founder of Guernica37 International Justice Chambers, analysed this decision for Al-Jazzera and noted that the commission will face a “huge challenge”, as a number of States, with Saudi Arabia at the forefront, “are trying to prevent it going forward” and will likely oppose investigations into what is happening on the ground.
In this vein, Cadman held that, taking into account previous experiences of comparative UN commissions -particularly, in Syria and Palestine- , it is unlikely that commissioners will be able enter into Yemen. This would undermine both the Commissioners’ ability to properly investigate and the significance of their findings. Cadman, however, insisted on the independence and impartiality of this type of Commissions, which must be given “the necessary support to do their work”.
He also highlighted two problems that will need to be addressed when the Commission issues its findings. First, getting the sides to accept the conclusions and “come together for a negotiated peace settlement”, and second, establishing “a process of accountability for those who have committed war crimes” regardless of their nationality. According to Toby Cadman, this second problem will constitute the greatest challenge of the Commission: “Yes, they have committed war crimes, but what’s next?”
Cadman observed that Russia and China have already opposed the resolution so, according to the human rights lawyer, “even if the matter goes before the UN Security Council, it is unlikely that it is going to end up in the International Criminal Court”. Therefore, the only alternative would be to bring cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction before national courts outside of Yemen, “as we have seen with the cases brought in relation to Syria in a number of European countries”.
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