Expected Council Action
In April, Council members expect a briefing in consultations on Yemen by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General. Also in April, the Council expects a briefing in consultations from Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania), as chair of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.
The mandate of the Special Adviser on Yemen was renewed on 12 June 2013 without an expiration date. Current sanctions expire on 26 February 2015.
Key Recent Developments
On 26 February the Council adopted resolution 2140, welcoming recent progress made in Yemen’s political transition and expressing its strong support for the next steps of the transition, in line with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-mediated Implementation Mechanism. These steps include drafting a new constitution, adopting a new electoral law, holding a referendum and general elections and changing the structure of the state from unitary to federal. On 8 March, President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed the 17 members of the committee that will draft the constitution. The committee is expected to hold consultations with civil society and complete a first draft that will then be shared with another committee responsible for ensuring that it conforms to the 21 January final document of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The new constitution is expected to be put to a vote in a referendum in early 2015.
Resolution 2140 established a sanctions regime (asset freeze and travel ban) for those undermining the political transition, impeding the implementation of the final report of the NDC or being responsible for human rights abuses in Yemen. The specific individuals targeted with the measures are to be designated by the newly established 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee. Murmokaitė is expected to brief Council members on the setting up of the Committee, including the adoption of its guidelines and the appointment of its Panel of Experts (PoE).
The resolution, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, recalls resolution 19/29 of the Human Rights Council and says that the Council looks forward to Yemen investigating allegations of violations of human rights in 2011. (On 22 September 2012, Presidential Decree No. 140 of 2012 established an independent commission of inquiry to address such abuses but President Hadi has since announced that he would postpone the nomination of its commissioners until after the referendum over a new constitution.)
The security situation in the country continues to be precarious. Despite consecutive truces reached in recent weeks, the situation remains tense between Salafist groups and the Zaidi Shi’a Houthis in Sana’a, Sa’ada, Al-Jawf and Amran governorates. In addition to the hundreds injured since October 2013, thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have reached Sana’a, and there have been instances of fighting in the capital. Terrorism continues to be a serious threat, as most recently evidenced by the 24 March terrorist attack which killed twenty soldiers in Hadramout. Clashes in the al-Dhale’e district, where armed local tribesmen from the Hirak (Southern) movement have been fighting with the government since December 2013, subsided after a truce was agreed in early March. The agreement includes the replacement of the 33rd Armoured Brigade, allegedly responsible for shelling civilians, by police forces. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 20 villages in the district (home to some 45,000 residents) have been frequently shelled since January.
OCHA reports that the vulnerable population includes some 312,000 IDPs, 147,500 migrants from the Horn of Africa and 236,000 returnees. OCHA issued a Consolidated Appeal for $592 million in 2014.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 11 March, during the presentation of his report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said that the situation in Yemen was a cause of concern, with an increase in armed drone strikes in late 2013 and a sharp escalation in the number of reported civilian casualties (A/HRC/25/59). During its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January, Yemen informed the UPR working group that the National Dialogue Conference had demanded the cessation of the use of armed drones.
Helping ensure the stability of the Hadi government in the transition process and solidifying the results of the NDC is the key issue for the Council. Making full use of the sanctions regime and preventing spoilers —such as former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and former Vice-President Ali Salim Al-Beidh—from further obstructing the political process are closely related issues.
Promoting the inclusivity of the constitution-drafting process and preparing for the general elections are key issues in the upcoming period.
Immediate issues for the Council include the precarious security situation, the presence of Al-Qaida and persistent violent clashes among tribal groups. Funding and supply of weapons from regional actors are closely related issues.
The bleak humanitarian situation—including widespread food insecurity, the challenges for IDPs, returnees and refugees, limited humanitarian access and funding—is an on-going issue.
Options for the Council include:
- receiving a briefing and taking no action; or
- issuing a statement urging the government to form the commission originally intended to address the 2011 human rights violations and, as per the NDC final document, a Transitional Justice Commission to address past abuses and lessons learnt, ensure reparations for victims and help establish an all-inclusive historical narrative.
In the Committee, a key option is to move towards targeting Saleh and Al-Beidh with sanctions.
Council and Wider Dynamics
While negotiating resolution 2140, Council members could not agree on the imposition of sanctions specifically on Saleh and Al-Beidh. Leaving this matter to the Committee was the accepted compromise. For some Council members, the aim of the sanctions is to serve more as a threat meant to change the behaviour of spoilers or discourage potential ones, rather than measures to be actually imposed. At press time, the PoE had not been appointed.
Although Hadi had made it known that he preferred sanctions to be imposed, it seems other factions within the government were wary of the consequences such a move could have on the stability of the transition. Some members of the GCC raised concerns regarding the establishment of the sanctions regime in Yemen. This comes as existing cleavages over other situations in the region have divided GCC countries.
The UK is the penholder on Yemen.
UN Documents on Yemen
|Security Council Resolution|
|26 February 2014 S/RES/2140||This resolution expressed the Council’s strong support for the next steps of the political transition and established sanctions against those threatening the peace, security or stability of Yemen.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|15 February 2013 S/PRST/2013/3||This was a presidential statement that reiterated Council members’ readiness to consider sanctions against individuals who interfere in the political transition process.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|25 March 2014 SC/11336||This was press statement on terrorist attack in Yemen.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 February 2014 S/PV.7119||This was the meeting where resolution 2140 was adopted.|