Volume 51
Issue 2
Winter '20

Crisis and Complicity: An Analysis of U.S. Support for Saudi Coalition Airstrikes Under the Law of Aiding and Abetting (Alleged) War Crimes

Written By: Alexander W. Preve

Abstract

The humanitarian toll produced by the conflict in Yemen is well-documented. So, too, is the steadfast U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, the leader of a coalition whose airstrikes have caused enough civilian casualties to be scrutinized by the U.N. for potential war crimes. As the parties negotiate a political resolution, attention may—and should—quickly turn toward ensuring accountability for internationally unlawful crimes. This Note examines the mode of liability under international criminal law known as aiding and abetting. After a discussion of its elements, it turns to an analysis of whether U.S. government personnel could be held liable for aiding and abetting the principal war crimes committed by the Saudi coalition—assuming that such crimes have been committed. It then scrutinizes how the U.S. has previously dealt with the problem of its assistance being used for internationally unlawful purposes and suggests mitigation measures to eliminate its complicity in future crises.

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