Yemen Accountability Project aims to document war crimes

Nathan Lesch, Staff Reporter

Case Western Reserve University law students are working with the Henry T. King, Jr. War Crimes Research Office to initiate the first comprehensive mapping of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Yemeni Civil War.

This initiative, called the Yemen Accountability Project, has drawn over 70 student volunteers, and funding for the project was provided by Timothy Geisse and the John F. and Mary A. Geisse Foundation.

Crimes against humanity are outlined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute, and include, but are not limited to murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture and rape “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” The Geneva Conventions prohibit inhumane treatment of individuals captured by the enemy. Murder, mutilation, torture, hostage taking and degrading treatment are all war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.

The Yemeni Civil War began in 2015 as a part of the Arab Spring, a period of civil unrest that spread across the Middle East starting in 2010, and has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Although an estimated 6,800 civilians have been killed and another 10,000 injured in the conflict, the collapse of the food system, the widespread outbreak of disease and disruption of daily life as a result of the conflict have been worse for civilians.

Volunteers to the Yemen Accountability Project will work in teams, each of which contributes to documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity. The investigative team researches reports of crimes in Yemen to determine if they meet the criteria required of war crimes. After determining that a crime was, in fact, a war crime, the analysis team analyzes the crimes within the context of the Yemeni penal code, the Rome Statute and the Geneva Conventions. Lastly, the registrar team reports on the conflict and archives the evidence uncovered by the other groups.

“The aim [of the project] is to methodically and meticulously document war crimes so that future prosecutors will be able to use the work we’ve done to subpoena and eventually try war criminals,” said Laura Graham, the executive director of the project.

Graham’s interests in peace processes, justice and a desire to make a difference drew her to the project.

“I have always had an interest in international conflicts and bringing war criminals to justice, so the project’s goals of documenting war crimes was appealing to me. It’s a project where I feel like the work we do will make a difference,” she said.