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Yemeni rights group sues Saudi crown prince

YEMEN (OBSERVATORY) – A rights group filed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to France on Tuesday accusing him of complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen, lawyers said.

The suit claims that Prince Mohammed, also the Saudi defense minister, is responsible for attacks on civilians in Yemen. The suit was filed on behalf of Taha Hussein Mohammed, Director of the Legal Center for Rights and Development.

The lawsuit was filed in Paris amid growing pressure on President Emmanuel Macron to curb arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are leading an alliance to fight the Houthis allied to Iran, who control much of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa.

In a speech to reporters in Paris, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir condemned the case and said the Huthis should be held accountable for the war in Yemen.

The rights group based in Sanaa says on its Web site that it monitors and documents human rights violations in Yemen.

The Crown Prince “ordered the first bombing of Yemeni territory on March 25, 2015,” rights group lawyer Joseph Barham and Hakim Sharqi said in the lawsuit documents seen by Reuters.

“The indiscriminate bombing of coalition forces affects civilians in Yemen and can be classified as acts of torture,” they wrote.

The case has caused embarrassment to Macaron at a sensitive time in French-Saudi relations. France is the third largest exporter of weapons in the world and Saudi Arabia is one of the largest buyers of them.

The lawyers cited UN reports and documents for rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam on arbitrary arrests and the use of banned cluster bombs.

– “Funny Suit” –

Authorities will now begin to examine the case and decide whether further legal action is needed. If the suit moves in the normal course, Prince Mohammed will be notified of the legal case but there will be no move to attend or detain a hearing.

“The idea that the Houthis are victims is a funny idea. I believe that the entire world must support our position with regard to its legitimacy. Everyone understands that you can not have a terrorist militia firing ballistic missiles at your capital. What would France do if six or seven ballistic missiles were fired at its capital?”

The Yemeni conflict has claimed more than 10,000 lives and displaced more than 3 million, more than 10 percent of the population.

The lawsuit also accuses the coalition of depriving millions of people of basic needs because of the indiscriminate bombardment and sea blockade of Yemeni ports. The war pushed Yemen to the brink of starvation.

Air strikes targeting the Houthi fighters have often hit civilian areas, but the coalition denies this.

The coalition also says it provides financial support to aid agencies and humanitarian groups to help civilians.

Lawyers said French courts were qualified to deal with the case in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

75 percent of French people want Macaron to suspend arms exports to Gulf Arab states. Rights groups have warned of legal action if the government does not stop selling.