Armies of Liberation

Jane Novak's blog about Yemen

US cannot increase drone use in Yemen without providing shelter for civilians

Filed under: Abyan, Aden, Air strike, Al-Qaeda, Counter-terror, Diplomacy, GCC, South Yemen, USA, Yemen, shabwa — by Jane Novak at 6:43 pm on Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yemenis are fleeing (not joining) al Qaeda where ever they appear. However the vast majority of civilians lack the funds to rent an apartment or to buy food once they leave their farms and possessions behind to be looted by AQAP. But if they stay, they are subject to both al Qaeda dictatorship and US drones. The US may label those who don’t flee as collateral damage or as providing material support (as the Bedouins were in the Dec 2009 US strike in Abyan that killed 43 women and children when General Patraeus implied they were acceptable deaths because they selling vegetable to AQAP, despite the fact the villagers had appealed twice to local authorities to expel the group.)

Certainly AQAP bears the responsibility for sheltering in populated areas in the first place but people in the al Qaeda occupied territories of Yemen want to know where the refugee camps are. Seriously, where are they supposed to go? And it is a US problem when an al Qaeda presence means the potential of US drone strikes. The 120,000 who fled Zinjibar last May are still in the schools of Aden. I know Yemenis’ rights are very low on Obama’s priority list, but there must be a part of the plan to increase US drone use that will deal with the public panic and mass displacement that will occur as US drones follow AQ from province to province threatening people’s lives and homes. Over 15,000 fled Raada within days of Tariq al Dhahab’s (and al Wahishi’s) appearance. They were escaping both the al Qaeda fanaticism and the threat of US drones.

While the Obama administration may try to maintain the myth in the US that they know exactly who they are hitting, and its always a precise targeting, the non-lethal impact on civilians must be considered as well. The US is playing right into al Qaedas hands with nearly every policy from the re-imposition of a dictatorship through the GCC deal to Saleh’s visit to increased drones. The US is focused on vulnerable land when it should be focused on vulnerable people.

Basically, the US is going to bomb Yemen in order to pull off an uncontested election that nobody wants (except the US, the GPC and Islah elites) in the interest of “stability.” If the expired parliament gave Saleh immunity, it can appoint Hadi. The bogus show election isn’t worth more Yemeni lives or the displacement of tens of thousands, and it certainly wont confer legitimacy when there’s only one candidate that was selected by the US. The most politically disenfranchised are going to boycott anyway: civil minded protesters, southerners and Houthis.

The National: Yemen will increasingly rely on US drone strikes to target Islamist militants threatening to disrupt a transfer of power this month, Yemeni government officials said.

The president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is meant to hand over power to his vice president, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, on February 22.

The run up to the transfer is being overshadowed by growing protests, including within the military, which have grounded Yemen’s air force across much of the country.

Two aides in Mr Hadi’s office said they expected a rise in drone attacks against Al Qaeda militants.

The strikes will be intensified only if necessary, to ensure that militant groups do not expand in vulnerable areas, said one of the aides. Both asked to remain anonymous. (Read on …)

Yemen’s parliament’s term expired in 2011, so how did they grant Saleh immunity in 2012?

Filed under: GCC, Parliament, Post Saleh, Protest Fatalities, Trials, USA — by Jane Novak at 11:14 am on Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There are many moves afoot within Yemen and internationally that dispute the unprecedented immunity deal for 33 years of Saleh’s crimes as well as that of his cohorts. However, the Yemeni parliament, that has been sitting since 2003, when it was elected to a four year term, was scheduled for elections in 2009 and voted itself a two year extension into 2011. I am checking but I can’t find anyone who recalls a new law being issued where they voted themselves another term extension.

(Update: the 2009 law grants a two year extension until they elect a new parliament in 2011, ambiguous language at best.

Update 2: a handy link from Yemen Parliament Watch that indicates parliament is operating outside the scope of the law: “The report indicated that the constitutional period of the parliament ended in February 2011 where the parliament had finished its six years stipulated constitution as well as the additional two years.”

Update 3: there is also a stipulation in the constitution that parliament can be extended when facing war, natural disaster or unrest, but I’m assuming that had to have been done formally, and within the scope of the term, not by some GPC mind meld.

Update 4: the amnesty was issued while Parliament was legally on vacation or in recess.)

Original post continues: A political deadlock ensued following the 2006 presidential election wherein the GPC thwarted the implementation of a proportional representation system (as opposed to a “winner takes all” single district method) and other electoral reforms, prompting the opposition JMP to boycott parliament altogether. Without the implementation of the previously agreed upon reforms, the parliament voted itself a two year extension and rescheduled elections for 2011. (In order to thwart elections in 2011, the SCER also disqualified the voter rolls en mass.) There was no new parliamentary election in 2011 and no official law passed rescheduling the election and extending their terms as far as I know. Therefore there is no legitimate Yemeni parliament, just a bunch of old men stuck to their chairs for a decade.

So where is the legal foundation of this expired parliament’s vote to give the Sanaa regime immunity? More fundamentally, the people withdrew legitimacy from the Parliament, the Sanaa regime and dysfunctional political party system through a year of mass nationwide protests.

However, while many are working on the issue of Saleh’s immunity, I am much more concerned with the implementation of the proportional representative system in order to undermine the hegemony of both the GPC and Islah who were both artificially empowered by the GCC plan. Proportional representation will allow for the growth of new parties, minority representation and probably more women in political office. It appears that the only way to get the task done is through a public referendum, as the same illegitimate GPC dominated parliament that stalled on the issue for five years will likely continue to block it.

The proportional system has a national consensus, and it has been repeatedly been endorsed by a variety of Yemeni groups from the JMP in 2005 to the tribally based National Dialog Committee in 2009 to the Yemeni Youth Revolution that took to the streets in 2011.

Had the PR system been enacted as agreed upon in 2006, allowing for authentic political growth and representative parties to compete in 2009, the revolution might not have been necessary. So its important not to allow history to repeat itself, especially with this crucial and long overdue element of the overall package of electoral reform.

There is more on the other illegalities of the unprecedented and illegal amnesty plan below from Human Rights Watch and the YCTJ:

Press Release
By The Yemeni Center for Transitional Justice Concerning the Approval of the House of Representatives of the Immunity Law

The Yemeni Center for Transitional Justice reviewed the law approved by the House of Representatives (Parliament) of the Republic of Yemen concerning the award of immunity to the President of the Regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters. As YCTJ confirms its previous position with respect to this law, that the law lacks the minimum principles of human justice, and is openly in violation of honorable Islamic Jurisprudence, international laws, and is in breach of the international human rights conventions/agreements to which Yemen is signatory, YCTJ now also calls for the application of real true transitional justice without any selectivity, forgery or deliquescent.
(Read on …)

Immunity law for Saleh passes the parliament

Filed under: Donors, UN, GCC, Parliament, Presidency, War Crimes, Yemen, reconfigurations — by Jane Novak at 10:36 am on Saturday, January 21, 2012

Its astounding that the GCC plan legitimizes the parliament, whose terms expired in 2009, to grant immunity to Saleh but doesn’t require those who have immunity to retire. The uncontested election is a waste of time and money as the international community undermined the concept of Yemenis right to self determination by ignoring their demands entirely. Its a veneer of democracy on a totally undemocratic process. The GCC plan also empowers the existing political parties and elites to a level beyond their credibility with the public.

SANA’A, Jan. 21 (Saba) – The parliament endorsed on Saturday a law granting president Ali Abdullah Saleh total immunity from legal and judicial prosecution.

This law also applies to the civil, military, and security officials, who were involved with the president in operations based on political motives rather than terrorist acts.

In addition, the parliament endorsed the recommendation for Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to be the consensual and sole candidate for the early presidential elections to be held on 21 February.

The adopted law was voted on in the presence of the government and all members of the parliament.

Saleh: immunity for me but not for thee

Filed under: GCC, Political Opposition, Presidency, War Crimes, Yemen — by Jane Novak at 9:37 am on Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update: Saleh’s subordinates would only get immunity in “political cases:”

A Yemeni draft law granting immunity to the outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, from prosecution over the killing of protesters was amended on Thursday to limit the protection his aides would enjoy, a minister said.

The draft law, which has been heavily criticized by rights groups, the United Nations and Yemeni protesters, will now shield the aides only in “political cases,” Legal Affairs Minister Mohammad Makhlafi told Reuters.

The illegitimate Parliament still has to vote on it to give it a veneer of legitimacy just like the uncontested election has no point other than to provide international cover for appointing Hadi. The US should just recognize him as president and avoid the unnecessary expenditures. Easing Saleh out of office was never a viable plan and only wasted a year, destroyed the economy and allowed AQAP to flourish. Sooner or later, Saleh has to be kicked out.

Original: Saleh the mass murderer, objects to immunity for those he alleges tried to kill him in the mosque bombing, Ali Mohsen al Ahmar and Sheik Sadiq etc.

But Ali Mohsen’s crimes extend far beyond that one incident to include the conduct of the first five rounds of the Saada War as well as embezzlement, all types of black market smuggling, land appropriation and torture. The US cant grant immunity to everyone in Saleh’s regime and exclude the current and former opposition. UN envoy Ben Omar is trying to placate Saleh’s victims’ families with financial compensation and its their choice, but many already turned down hush money and blood money from the regime at the time of the murders. The notion that the families and the protesters are out of line somehow for demanding Saleh’s trial is Orwellian.

Yemen Times
A source close to negotiations told the Yemen Times that one of the disagreements on a political level stemmed from the fact that Saleh did not want the law to include his opponents Major General Ali Mohsen and the leaders of the Hashid Tribal confederation. Both were accused of the June 3 attack on the presidential compound, which left 12 dead and injured president Saleh and other key government figures.

In December, the Yemeni revolution turned towards institutions as employees of government institutions protested and went on strike, commonly demanding the prosecution of “corrupt” officials and mangers – many of whom are members of the General People’s Congress.

The proposed immunity law goes against their demands if it is approved in its current form. It suggests that seeks to grant immunity not only to Saleh, but also to all who worked with him in state, civil, military and security institutions during his rule.

Law expert Nabeela Al-Mufti, said: “The problem is that the law is too general, giving immunity to all who worked with Saleh for 33 years. This gives it a dangerous dimension.”

Another issue is the proposal that the law be implemented both inside and outside Yemen. “The Yemeni parliament cannot dominate the world parliaments and force them to implement the immunity,” said Al-Mufti.

Many Yemenis wonder whether or not Saleh or his fellows can be prosecuted outside of Yemen. According to Al-Mufti Saleh can be prosecuted outside of Yemen but his crime must have been committed in the prosecuting country. However, the International Criminal Court (ICC) can still receive cases against Saleh for crimes committed in Yemen – but any case must meet the ICC standards as a humanitarian or war crime.

“It is possible that a Yemeni person could raise a suit against Saleh for a crime that was committed in Yemen in any of the 81 countries that signed the Roma Law and became a member of the ICC,” Al-Mufti explained, adding that ICC procedures are complicated and lengthy but still possible.

Issues with the immunity law led to the idea of a Transitional Reconciliation Conference. The brainchild of UN envoy Jamal Benomar, the conference would serve as a way to bring together Yemen’s conflicting parties for a new beginning, forgetting past crimes but also proposing compensation to victims and their families – an idea that worked both in Morocco and South Africa

“The law denies individuals their right to prosecute; the concept of reconcilement should be by satisfaction not by force,” she added. “Any reconcilement should offer something to the victims’ families and whoever was harmed by Saleh’s regime.”

US State Department pushes for immunity for Saleh and thus al Qaeda in Yemen

Filed under: Donors, UN, GCC, Post Saleh, USA, Yemen — by Jane Novak at 9:47 pm on Monday, January 9, 2012

Obama’s strategic blunder in Yemen may shield Al Qaeda from prosecution

A law passed by Yemen’s cabinet on Sunday provides blanket immunity to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and all those who served in his governments over the last 33 years. One unintended consequence may be to also immunize those al Qaeda operatives on the payroll of the Yemeni military and security services.

The law grants immunity to Saleh “and whoever worked with him in all the state’s civil, military and security apparatus and organizations during the period of his rule.” The US has pushed for the transition plan since May despite broad public rejection of the immunity clause.

Yemeni military commanders including those now in the opposition are thought be complicit in a range of terror attacks, in addition to a long standing pattern of facilitation of al Qaeda. Many al Qaeda operatives who draw a state salary would then be covered under the immunity deal.

As one example, former Interior Minister Hussain Arab issued an official travel permit to Abdel Rahman al Nashiri in 2000, covering the period of the USS Cole attack that killed 17 US service members. Not only would the law absolve Mr. Arab of any complicity in the al Qaeda attack, it may also absolve Mr. al Nashiri.

If Al Nashiri, who is currently scheduled for trial at Guantanamo Bay, can produce witnesses to the involvement of Yemeni government officials in the attack, the Obama administration will be placed in the uncomfortable position of having lobbied for immunity for the al Qaeda operatives who attacked a US war ship.

Similarly another Yemeni detainee with demonstrated foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack in New York had been employed by the Yemeni Political Security Organization prior to his capture in Egypt.

Yemeni officials have openly admitted to paying al Qaeda operatives’ salaries, purportedly as informants or to keep them out of trouble. Some of those currently partaking in the al Qaeda occupation of Abyan have been found with identity cards from the National Security.

Yemeni activists have long asserted that the state uses al Qaeda to attack its enemies and threaten the international community.

Al Qaeda targeted and killed several foreign nationals in Yemen since 2007 including aid workers from Germany, Britain and South Korea as well as tourists from Spain, South Korea and Belgium. Yemeni officials have stated that al Qaeda is able to obtain intelligence from the security services as a matter of corruption rather than ideology.

The law, which will be presented for parliament’s approval within coming days, also covers those government officials guilty of massive corruption and embezzlement, the primary cause of Yemen’s staggering illiteracy and malnutrition rates. Members of the presidential family are thought to have deposited millions abroad.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland termed the immunity clause useful if it encourages “the strongman to leave the stage.”

Hundreds of protesters have been killed by security forces, many by sniper shots to the head, since protests began in February 2011 demanding regime change. The killings continued unabated even after Saleh signed the power transfer deal in November.

Saleh supporters and security forces have attacked numerous journalists RSF reported since the departure plan was signed. Calling December 2011 “a particularly black month,” Reporters Without Borders firmly condemned the continuing violations and urged the international community to intercede.

Yemeni protesters largely reject the US backed transition plan because of the immunity clause. Protests calling for Saleh’s trial continue in nearly every governorate.

The UN Security Council endorsed the agreement, which was ironed out by UN envoy, Jamal Benomar. However, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a statement last week asserting that the plan is illegal under international law,

“I have been closely following the events in Yemen, particularly the very contentious debate about an amnesty law to be presented to Parliament shortly,” the High Commissioner said.

“International law and the UN policy are clear on the matter: amnesties are not permissible if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who may be criminally responsible for international crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and gross violations of human rights.”

Probable war crimes committed during the Saada war (2005-2010) include the “Scorched Earth” campaign during the sixth round of war, 2009-201o, when the Yemeni air force repeatedly bombed civilian villages, refugee camps, and infrastructure. Saudi air support was responsible for bombing a Yemeni hospital, which Saudi authorities called “a mistake” in conversations to US officials, according to a Wikileaks document. The deliberate denial of humanitarian aid and a pattern of mass nationwide arrests are also thought to have contravened international law.

Another pattern of systematic abuse with regard to southern protesters since 2007 is well documented.

The transition plan although forwarded by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the brain child of President Obama’s counter-terror adviser, John Brennan and US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein.

The Wall Street Journal revealed last week that Mr. Brennan was “pissed” when it became apparent that President Saleh had orchestrated a hit on a political rival via US drone by feeding the US false intelligence.

The US drone strike in May 2010 killed the deputy governor of Marib , Jabir Shabwani. Observers questioned Mr. Brennan’s gullibility considering Saleh’s long and extensive history of duping the US on counter-terror issues.

Yemenis have held several protests calling for the expulsion of US Ambassador Feierstein after he disparaged a peaceful 170 mile march from Taiz to Sana’a, held to underscore public rejection of the amnesty deal.

Ambassador Feierstein said the marchers were trying to provoke chaos and thus not inherently peaceful. When state forces killed 11 marchers later in the day, Yemenis charged that the US had given the Saleh regime the green light to murder as well as provided the amnesty afterward.

Over several months, US diplomats have pushed hard for the immunity deal as a way to ease Saleh out of office; however Saleh has outplayed the US at every turn during the 11 month popular uprising. He shows no real intention of giving up power and continues to operate on the political scene through proxies within the unity government.

- Jane

Not to mention that they really have to give immunity to the corrupt opposition now as well or the immunized criminals will have an advantage.

Yemen Observer: The Yemeni cabinet has approved a draft law of amnesty that will give President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his aides immunity from prosecution. (Read on …)

Open season on Yemenis: UN backs GCC plan, doesnt call for Saleh to go, no sanctions

Filed under: Diplomacy, Donors, UN, GCC, Transition, USA, Yemen — by Jane Novak at 5:54 pm on Friday, October 21, 2011

The protesters want a transitional council leading to a parliamentary system. The UN is backing the GCC plan which contains an immunity clause for Saleh and his cronies and re-entrenches the regime in under three months. Its astounding. With the ambiguity of neither endorsing or explicitly rejecting the immunity clause, and neither backing Saleh or calling for his departure, its a meaningless, toothless statement. And not only did Saleh renege on the GCC deal four times already, he ignored two UN SC resolutions in 1994. Speaking of which, the southerners are going to be so utterly disappointed that they were entirely overlooked as well.

CBS: The resolution was the first adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body since the Arab Spring uprising in Yemen began eight months ago. It was clearly aimed at stepping up international pressure on Saleh, who was president of North Yemen from 1978 until 1990 when he became the first president of a unified Yemen….Philippe Bolopion, U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, said the organization welcomed “the long overdue condemnation of Yemeni government abuses,” but believed the council should have distanced itself from the council’s impunity deal.

“By signaling that there would be no consequence for the killing of Yemenis, the immunity deal has contributed to prolonging the bloodshed,” he said.

The White House said in a statement that the deal sends “a united and unambiguous signal to President Saleh that he must respond to the aspirations of the Yemeni people by transferring power immediately.”

The resolution calls for Saleh, or those authorized to act on his behalf, to immediately sign the Gulf Cooperation Council deal “to achieve a peaceful political transition of power … without further delay.”

Although the deal would give Saleh immunity, the resolution also underlines the need for an independent investigation into alleged human rights abuses “with a view to avoiding impunity.” — Unlike the resolution on Syria that was vetoed by Russia and China on Oct. 4, the Yemen resolution makes no mention of sanctions or any other measures.

With fighting intensifying, there are concerns that a civil war would significantly hurt efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia to fight Yemen’s dangerous al Qaeda branch, and could turn the mountainous nation into a global haven for militants a short distance away from the vast oil fields of the Gulf and the key shipping lanes in the Arabian and Red seas.

Text below:

Security Council Condemns Human Rights Violations by Yemeni Authorities Abuses by ‘Other Actors’, after Months of Political Strife

Resolution 2014 (2011), Adopted Unanimously, Calls for End to Violence,

Acceptance of Gulf Cooperation Council Peace Plan, with Orderly Transfer of Power

Strongly condemning what it called human rights violations by authorities, and abuses by other actors, in Yemen following months of political strife, the Security Council this afternoon demanded that all sides immediately reject violence, and called on them to commit to a peaceful transition of power based on proposals by the major regional organization of the Arabian Gulf. (Read on …)

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