What's In Blue

Posted Wed 25 Jan 2017

Yemen: Political and Humanitarian Briefing and Sanctions Committee Meeting

Tomorrow (26 January), the Security Council will receive briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and OCHA head Stephen O’Brien, to be followed by consultations. On Friday (27 January), the Yemen 2140 Committee will meet to consider the final report of its Panel of Experts.

There has been no briefing on Yemen since 31 October (S/PV/7797), although the Special Envoy is expected to report to the Council every 60 days. Following the last briefing, there was an expectation that the UK may propose a new resolution that would have called for a cessation of hostilities and for the parties to return to negotiations on the basis of the Special’s Envoy’s roadmap. (The roadmap was presented by the Special Envoy to the parties in October to revive peace talks). However, it seems the UK chose not to pursue a resolution following pressure from Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni government reiterated its rejection of this roadmap in a 6 December letter to the Council, asserting that it was not consistent with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its implementation mechanism, the Outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and resolution 2216 (S/2016/1035).

In the months since the Council last discussed Yemen, fighting appears to have intensified. Heavy fighting has continued along the front lines in Taiz, Nihm (near Sana’a) and the north-western Saudi-Yemeni border. In early January, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Yemeni government launched a new offensive to take the Red Sea port city of Mokha, which was reportedly captured on 23 January. There are concerns that the Coalition and government may be preparing to now attack Hodeidah, Yemen’s fourth largest city and a key port for importing food and fuel supplies amidst Yemen’s dire humanitarian situation.

The Special Envoy is likely to update the Council on efforts to revive a political process. On 18 December, foreign ministers of the “Quad”—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US—met with the foreign minister of Oman and Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Riyadh. Following the meeting, the Quad released a communiqué reaffirming its support for the UN proposals – previously referred to as the roadmap – and urged the Yemeni government to engage in talks on the basis of the proposals, while welcoming the roadmap’s endorsement by the Houthis and the General People’s Congress (GPC), the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In mid-January, the Special Envoy began a new round of shuttle diplomacy, visiting Riyadh, Doha and Muscat. He travelled to Aden last week, where he met Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and to Sana’a over the weekend, where he held meetings with Houthi and GPC representatives.

Despite these initiatives, members are not expecting the Special Envoy to have much progress to report. Members are likely to express their frustration with the failure to even achieve a cessation of hostilities, which then-US Secretary of State John Kerry indicated following the Quad meeting in Riyadh could be possible within two weeks. Members may wish to explore how the Council can support getting agreement on a cessation of hostilities and promoting a more inclusive peace process. In light of the fact that there has been limited signs of progress, they are likely to be interested in hearing the Special Envoy’s strategy going forward.

On the humanitarian situation, O’Brien is likely to present a bleak picture. OCHA’s 31 December 2016 humanitarian bulletin on Yemen estimated that 14 million people were food-insecure, including 462,000 children under 5 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In addition to expressing concern, members are likely to stress the need for unhindered humanitarian access as both sides continue to impose obstacles. This includes impediments imposed by the Houthis for getting aid into Taiz, and as flagged by the OCHA bulletin, import restrictions despite the establishment of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism, as well as the coalition’s ban on commercial flights to and from Sana’a.

Members may want further information on the country’s liquidity crisis resulting from the depletion of the Central Bank’s reserves and Hadi’s order to relocate the Central Bank from Sana’a to Aden. The Yemen Panel of Experts final report characterised this decision as effectively opening up an economic front to the conflict. Some members may reiterate the Special Envoy’s recent calls for the Central Bank to pay the salaries of civil servants salaries across all of Yemen. Some members may voice their concerns that a further breakdown in state institutions or the worsening humanitarian situation amidst the fighting could be exploited by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)

2140 Committee Meeting on Panel of Experts’ final report
On Friday, the 2140 Committee will meet with the Panel of Experts to discuss its final report submitted earlier this month. The report analyses the implementation of financial and travel ban sanctions, the arms embargo against Houthi and Saleh forces and other possible violations of the designation criteria, including international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Among its findings, the Panel said although there had possibly been small-scale shipments of weapons, it had not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply from Iran. Regarding the several dhows (traditional sailing vessels) that have been seized since 2015 transferring small arms, the report said these had more likely been going to Somalia, in contrast to media assertions that these were for Yemen. The Panel said it could not discount, however, the possibility that the arms were intended to be shipped from Somalia to Yemen.

The report notes that the exploitation by AQAP and the ISIL of the vacuum created by the war could be laying the foundation for terrorist networks that could last years. The Panel also assesses that Yemen could be fracturing beyond the point of no return.

The report attributes violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may amount to war crimes, to all parties. It also notes that all states whose forces engage or participate in military operations on behalf of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition would be responsible for acts committed by members of their armed forces.
The final report examines and highlights international humanitarian law and human rights violations committed by other groups, including the Houthis, Saleh loyalist forces and Yemeni-government affiliated forces. It concludes, for example, that’ the use of torture and arbitrary detentions by Houthi security forces is sufficiently widespread and systematic to implicate top leadership.

The Panel did not make new recommendations in addition to those in its 2015 final report and 2016 mid-term update. In November 2016, the Panel submitted statements of cases on two individuals associated with the Houthis and Saleh whom the Committee could consider subjecting to sanctions measures. These have not been acted on, which may be due to a desire to avoid taking actions that could risk hurting the chances of reviving the political process.

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