Middle East

Istanbul conference calls for tribunal to judge Yemen 'crimes'

An Istanbul conference under the aegis of Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman on Friday called for concrete measures to end the war in her native Yemen and an international court to judge those charged with crimes during the conflict.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates lead a coalition in Yemen fighting Shiite Huthi rebels who are backed by Riyadh's arch enemy Iran
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates lead a coalition in Yemen fighting Shiite Huthi rebels who are backed by Riyadh's arch enemy Iran (AFP)

An Istanbul conference under the aegis of Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman on Friday called for concrete measures to end the war in her native Yemen and an international court to judge those charged with crimes during the conflict.

The conference, which was organised by Karman's foundation, urged international players including the United Nations to take "deliberate and responsible actions to end the war and restore peace in Yemen".

The call came after UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said in late October it aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks "within a month".

Karman, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2011, was a key figure in the protests that ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh during the Arab Spring uprisings.

The conference called for a "referendum on a draft constitution" and the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections "under UN supervision to ensure a peaceful and legitimate power transition".

The participants also sought the establishment of an international court on Yemen to consider "all crimes committed by the local and international partis in the conflict".

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates lead a coalition in Yemen fighting Shiite Huthi rebels who are backed by Riyadh's arch enemy Iran.

In a speech to the conference on Thursday, Karman called on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to end their "unconstructive interference in Yemen and stop supporting terrorist groups and armed militias as well as mercenaries who have assassinated Yemenis in Aden and Taez."

But she also called for an end to interference "by the mullahs in Iran to try to control Yemen by supporting Huthi militias."

Saudi and the UAE intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Huthis in 2015.

The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Huthis back, but the rebels still hold the key port city of Hodeida and the capital Sanaa.

Pro-government forces are currently pushing deeper into Hodeida amid fierce fighting.

Nearly 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.

The severity of the campaign by Saudi Arabia has been criticised by some in the international community.

Scrutiny has also increased following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2 at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul which caused international outrage.