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Lawsuit filed against Abu Dhabi crown prince accusing him of war crimes

In a suit filed in France, Mohammed bin Zayed is accused of war crimes, complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrives for a working dinner with the French prime minister at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris (AFP)

A rights group filed a lawsuit against Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed during his visit to France on Wednesday, accusing him of war crimes, complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen, a lawyer for the group said.

The complaint by the International Alliance for the Defence of Rights and Freedoms (AIDL) said bin Zayed, who is deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, is responsible for attacks that hit civilians.

"It's in this capacity that he has ordered bombings on Yemeni territory," said the complaint filed on behalf of the AIDL, which is based in France.

One of the complaints against the Abu Dhabi prince was brought by three nationals of Saudi Arabia's arch-foe Qatar, who claimed they had been detained and tortured by UAE security officials between February 2013 and May 2015, according to their lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur.

The trio said they had been subjected to "physical and psychological torture", including beatings, sleep deprivation and threats of rape, hanging and death, Sur said in a statement.

The second complaint, for "complicity in torture and war crimes" in Yemen, was brought by six Yemenis and the AIDL.

There was no immediate response from the crown prince's court or the UAE government media office to an emailed request for comment.

Diplomatic efforts to halt the war in Yemen have proved unsuccessful and attempts by rights groups to hold the war's protagonists to account have gained little international traction so far.

The complaint, filed in a Paris court, comes as pressure grows on French President Emmanuel Macron to curb arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which head a coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who control most of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa. France also has a military base in Abu Dhabi.

A number of Yemenis have joined the legal action, AIDL lawyer Joseph Breham said.

Prince Mohammed, a close ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is due to have lunch with Macron on Wednesday.

French prosecutors are already studying a similar complaint filed in April against the Saudi crown prince, starting a legal process likely to last years.

The complaint against Abu Dhabi's crown prince cites a report by UN experts that said coalition attacks may have constituted war crimes and that torture was carried out in two centres controlled by Emirati forces.

The complaint makes reference to the bombing of a building in Sanaa in October, 2016, where a wake was taking place for the father of the Houthi administration’s interior minister.

The Yemen war has killed more than 56,000 people, according to independent researchers, and forced from their homes more than 3 million - more than 10 percent of the population.

Documents from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam on arbitrary detentions and the use of illegal cluster bombs are also referenced in the complaint.

The lawyers said French courts were competent to handle the case in line with the United Nations convention against torture.

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