French and American assassins hired by the United Arab Emirates to commit ‘targeted killing’ of politicians and clerics in Yemen is shameful, said the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and SAM for Rights and Liberties in a joint statement today.
The use of illegal means that are considered crimes under international law to achieve certain political ends is a disgrace, added the two organizations, condemning the UAE's hiring of a private American company employing former US and French soldiers to work in Yemen to accomplish specific 'missions.'
Most of those assassinated are civilians, and are targeted without any obvious reason.
Killing these civilians for large sums of money is a double-crime, first by involving mercenaries in an armed conflict, and second by the deliberate killing of persons presumably protected under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
An investigative report by BuzzFeed News website cited soldiers who worked as part of this company in Yemen with the consent of the UAE. These soldiers admitted that they carried out high-profile assassinations in Yemen during 2015 and 2016.
They also admitted to have attempted on December 29, 2015, to assassinate Anssaf Ali Mayo, a member of the Yemeni parliament and a leader of the Al-Islah Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen.
Operating under UAE’s military, the assassins planted a bomb near the Party's headquarters once Mayo was believed to be there with a number of political leaders and journalists, but have not been successful at killing the political leader or any of the others present in the building.
However, some other 30 assassinations of political figures and leaders of the Al-Islah Party have been documented in the months that followed and until the end of 2017, said the two organizations.
Worth noting here is the fact that since the Houthi group lost control over Aden to the UAE three years ago, civilians in the city have been living in fear of frequent assassinations, especially under the UAE’s ‘security silence’ over the situation.
According to Abraham Golan, the Hungarian Israeli security contractor and unit commander who carried out the attack against Mayo, the deal was signed between his company and the UAE in Abu Dhabi through Mohammed Dahlan’s mediation.
The company's work in Yemen is mercenary in nature, and the task assigned to it constitutes an illegal act and a crime under international law and local Yemeni laws.
According to Golan, his company would receive $1.5 million a month to explicitly “disrupt and destruct” the Al-Islah Party by targeting its leaders. The group entered Yemen by the end of 2015 with 12 soldiers, three Americans, who received $25,000 a month for the mission, while the rest were soldiers from France and received $10,000 a month, with additional bonuses for “successful kills.”
Article 1 of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries and Article 47 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions (1977) apply to these persons. Both articles describe the mercenary as a person who is recruited to fight in an armed conflict, such as Yemen’s current conflict, and is not a member of the armed forces of either party to the conflict.
They further state that mercenaries are “motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, [are] promised… material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party.”
The UAE’s inclusion of these mercenaries into their armed forces by giving them military ranks is no less than an attempt to avert the definition of the ‘mercenary’ as set out in the text of the above-mentioned articles.
States have a duty to hold accountable those involved in the commission of the said crimes, particularly since article 5 of the UN Mercenary Convention prohibits states from recruiting, using, financing or training mercenaries, and hence states parties to the Convention shall punish those involved in this crime “with the appropriate measures to prevent the recruitment, use, financing or training of mercenaries for that purpose.”
The crime of ‘extrajudicial killing’ of civilians and politicians also apply in this case, constituting a war crime under international humanitarian law, stressed the two organizations.
“We were 10 journalists from Aden and colleagues from several governorates under the Houthi control,” said Abdul Raqeeb al-Hudaiani to Euro-Med and SAM, a correspondent for Al-Ittihad Newspaper and a survivor of the incident. I was on the second floor of the building, while Mr. Mayo’s office was on the first floor.”
Commenting on the incident, Mr. al-Hudaiani said: “The explosion was deafening. The air-conditioning fell on my head, and my laptop crashed. We were all afraid, and thought we might be targeted. Later, the neighbors said that the bombers fled after their car was blown up, and said they heard them scream and speak in English.”
The direct responsibility falls on the UAE for these crimes. These mercenaries were carried to the operation scene by a SUV driven by an Emirati driver, and their equipment are specific to the UAE army.
In addition, it was the UAE that first concluded the contract with the mercenaries, which brought them via a UAE air force plane to the UAE military base of Asab, in Eritrea, and from there to Yemen.
Gilmore, who works with Golan, reported that a uniformed Emirati officer handed them a list of targets, including 23 names. Some of them were members of the Al-Islah Party. The targets included in the list were clerics, terrorists, and “[t]here is the possibility that the target would be someone who [Mohammed bin Zayed] doesn’t like.”
According to Article 8 (2c), violence against life and persons, including murder, and execution without prior judgment by a competent court, constitute war crimes.
Article 4 (2) of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions prohibits “violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder.”
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and SAM for Rights and Liberties call on the United States to take action against those found guilty of the said crimes.
US law criminalizes “conspiracy to kill, kidnap and mutilate” persons in another country, and states that military services provided to foreign states shall be regulated by the US Department of State. The question remains as to whether this private American company was granted permission to send out highly trained ex-soldiers and reserves to fight proxy wars.
Euro-Med Monitor and SAM also call on the UN Commission of Experts to investigate the war crimes in Yemen, which have recently grown even more rampant, including the ones unfolded by BuzzFeed and to refer specifically to the UAE’s responsibility for such disgraceful crimes.