Expected Council Action
In December, Council members are expected to hold their 60-day briefing in consultations with Special Adviser Jamal Benomar. In addition, it is anticipated that Council members will also receive a briefing from the chair of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania).
No Council action is expected in December. 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 7 October, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi nominated Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak as prime minister. His nomination was rejected, however, by the Houthis, a Zaidi Shi’a group that seized control of Sana’a in September. As Houthi supporters in Sana’a prepared to march in protest against the nomination on 9 October, they were attacked by a suicide bomber. At least 47 people were killed. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) later claimed responsibility. The following day, Council members issued a press statement condemning the bombing as well as recent attacks against Yemeni security forces in Bayda and Hadramawt.
Council members held urgent consultations with Benomar on 13 October. He reiterated his previous warnings that the political transition was at risk of collapsing. That morning in Yemen, a positive breakthrough came when Hadi nominated Khalid Bahah, the Permanent Representative of Yemen to the UN, as prime minister, whom all Yemeni parties accepted. After the consultations, Ambassador María Cristina Perceval (Argentina), as Council president for that month, read agreed “elements to the press” urging implementation of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), welcomed Bahah’s nomination and agreed to urgently consider evidence in order to sanction peace spoilers.
The Houthis took over the strategic port city of Hudaydah on 15 October as they expanded their presence to the south and west of Sana’a. Egypt has warned that it might intervene militarily if the Houthis take control of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, a major waterway between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean that ships must use to reach the Suez Canal. In central Yemen, primarily in Al Bayda governorate but also Ibb and Hudaydah governorates, since around mid-October, the Houthis have been engaged in heavy fighting with AQAP and tribes that have allied with AQAP, resulting in heavy casualties.
Reignited by the unrest in the north since the Houthi take-over of Sana’a, the Hirak Southern Movement renewed calls for independence and announced that the government had until 30 November to withdraw all employees and security forces from the south. On 14 October, tens of thousands demonstrated in Aden in support of secession and self-determination. Over the following weeks, pro-independence rallies continued.
Meanwhile, the Yemen sanctions committee on 15 October received case studies from the Panel of Experts on Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi and a top Houthi military commander, Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, about their activities that have threatened Yemen’s peace, security and stability. On 24 October, the Panel also submitted case studies on former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son, Ahmed Saleh, which described their support in facilitating the Houthis’ takeover of Sana’a and other military successes.
On 31 October, the US proposed that former president Saleh, al Hakim and Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi, another Houthi military commander, be designated for targeted sanctions. Committee members discussed the proposals at a 4 November meeting. On 7 November, the Committee approved sanctions on Saleh and the two Houthi commanders, which subject them to an assets freeze and travel ban. On 26 November, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee met with representatives of Yemen and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to discuss the implementation of the sanctions.
The same day the Council announced the sanctions, an agreement was reached on the formation of a new, technocratic government in Yemen. The new government is a mix of independents and affiliates of the General People’s Congress (GPC), the opposition coalition known as the Joint Meeting Parties, the Hirak Southern Movement and the Houthis. On 8 November, the GPC and the Houthis issued statements denouncing sanctions imposed by the Council. The GPC, which was founded by Saleh, additionally voted to expel Hadi, who was its Secretary-General, from the party, and said it would withdraw from the government. However, GPC representatives later took part in the swearing-in ceremony for the government. Council members welcomed the formation of the new government in an 8 November press statement, in which it also recalled the recent sanctions designations.
The constitution-drafting committee resumed its work in mid-October and began working out of the United Arab Emirates on 23 October to finalise the first draft of the constitution.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 25 September, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights (A/HRC/RES/27/19). Recalling the Security Council resolutions 2014, 2051 and 2140, the resolution notes concern over the recent escalation of armed violence and calls on the relevant parties to ensure humanitarian access to the affected population and to investigate all cases of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law. It calls on the government to release persons arbitrarily detained and demands that armed groups end the recruitment and use of children. It also stresses that the work of the Panel of Experts established by the Security Council is important in relation to the improvement in the human rights situation and plays an important role in the improvement in accountability for violations and abuses of human rights in Yemen.
A key issue is ensuring further implementation of the PNPA in order to salvage Yemen’s transition. Related to this is whether the Houthis, the GPC and others will cooperate with the new government.
Another issue is the fighting between the Houthis and AQAP and risk of sectarian violence.
Renewed calls from the south for independence is another important issue.
The government’s fiscal situation and the risk of an economic collapse is also an issue of concern.
For the briefing by Murmokaitė as chair of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee, a key issue is ensuring the implementation of the sanctions.
One option for the Council is to closely monitor the situation but take no action.
It could also adopt a resolution or presidential statement that:
- reaffirms the need for stakeholders to abide by their commitments to the PNPA, National Dialogue Conference outcomes and the GCC Initiative and Implementation Mechanism;
- recalls that those obstructing the full implementation of these political agreements will be designated for targeted sanctions; and
- expresses full support for Hadi, Bahah, the new government and Yemen’s territorial integrity.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council has limited leverage in dealing with Yemen, with sanctions as its main tool, in addition to supporting Benomar’s good offices. For the recent designations, Saleh was an easier candidate for members to agree on due to his behind-the-scenes role in facilitating the Houthis’ military successes. On designating members of the Houthis, the decision was more complicated because the group is now a major political player and in de facto control of much of the country, so the international community must be able to interact with them. Despite this concern, there was a strong view that there needed to be consequences for the Houthis’ actions. Therefore, the two military commanders were designated, but the political leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, was not listed in order to encourage the group’s cooperation. Similarly, it seems one reason for not designating Saleh’s son at this stage is to try to encourage that faction’s cooperation. At the Sanctions Committee’s 4 November meeting, Russia was the most vocal member in expressing scepticism about the designations, in particular of the Houthis, but it ultimately agreed.
Events in the country prompted the Council to agree on sanctions. Previously, it debated whether the threat of sanctions by itself could be a sufficient deterrent of spoiler activities. In addition, the position of Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries on sanctions—having recently shifted from opposing sanctions to supporting them—was also an important factor. GCC countries are crucial for the effective implementation of the sanctions since these countries are where most of financial assets to be frozen are kept.
The UK is the penholder 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 Press Statements|
|8 November 2014 SC/11638||This press statement welcomed the formation of Yemen’s new government.|
|10 October 2014 SC/11595||This was a press statement condemning the 9 October bomb attack in Sana’a, Yemen which killed at least 47 people, including children and the continued attacks against Yemeni security forces in Hadramawt on 9 October, as well as in Bayda on 8 October.|
|23 September 2014 SC/11578||This press statement welcomed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement signed on 21 September.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|7 November 2014 SC/11636||This press statement announced assets freezes and travel ban measures against former president Saleh and two Houthi military commanders.|