US move to designate Houthis terrorist organization will help Yemen peace efforts: Officials, analysts

Yemen parliament: “The Houthi militia has destroyed the land and people of Yemen and posed a threat to international peace and security”. (AFP/File)
Yemen parliament: “The Houthi militia has destroyed the land and people of Yemen and posed a threat to international peace and security”. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 12 January 2021

US move to designate Houthis terrorist organization will help Yemen peace efforts: Officials, analysts

US move to designate Houthis terrorist organization will help Yemen peace efforts: Officials, analysts
  • The Yemeni government has said that Houthi crimes and human rights abuses are on a par with those committed by other terrorist organizations such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda

AL-MUKALLA: America’s decision to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization will help pave the way for peace in Yemen, government officials and analysts claim.

The designation, due to come into effect the day before US President Donald Trump’s administration leaves office, would curb Houthi human rights abuses and the group’s resistance to peace efforts, while weakening financial sources that fuel the war in the country, they said.

But critics have argued that the move might exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, escalate violence, and encourage the Houthis to strengthen ties with Iran.

Yemen’s parliament has urged American legislators to approve the designation to punish the Houthis for crimes carried out against Yemenis. It believes the move would force the Houthis into accepting unfulfilled peace agreements and current peace efforts, the official news agency SABA said.

“The Houthi militia has destroyed the land and people of Yemen and posed a threat to international peace and security,” the parliament said in a statement.

Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, former prime minister of Yemen and a senior adviser to the Yemeni president, described the US move as an “accurate and realistic description” of the Houthi movement, adding that the step would boost the Yemeni government and Arab coalition efforts to recapture state bodies from the Houthis.

In a tweet, Daghr said: “With this historic decision, the Americans have expressed their desire to achieve peace, sovereignty, and unity in Yemen and to save Yemen from Iranian interference.”

Despite strong opposition from aid workers and many Yemen experts, the internationally recognized government of Yemen has stepped up diplomatic efforts to get the Houthi movement declared a terrorist organization following last month’s missile attack on Aden airport that killed and wounded more than 130 people.

The Yemeni government has said that Houthi crimes and human rights abuses are on a par with those committed by other terrorist organizations such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda.

However, critics have pointed out that the US move may aggravate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen by restricting movements of international aid organizations that distribute vital humanitarian assistance to millions of hungry Yemenis and could also provoke the Houthis into escalating their military operations throughout Yemen.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Yemen’s foreign minister, told Arab News that the decision would not have any impact on humanitarian deliveries inside Houthi-controlled areas, as it excluded humanitarian workers who deal with the rebels from sanctions.

“We will not allow the punishment of our people in areas under the control of the militias. The decision includes exceptions that will enable humanitarian organizations to operate,” the minister said.

At the same time, Yemeni government officials who handle humanitarian activities inside Yemen backed the US move, blaming the Houthis for fueling the humanitarian crisis by blocking the distribution of life-saving aid in areas under their control.

Based on his previous experience with the Houthis, former Yemeni minister of local administration and chairman of the higher committee for relief in Yemen, Abdul Raqeeb Fateh, said the designation would have positive impacts on the delivery of humanitarian assistance since it would put an end to the plundering of aid by the Houthis.

“Since 2014, the Houthis have looted relief aid and used it to support their war efforts and refused to apply humanitarian standards. The decision will force them to back down and reduce plundering,” he added in a tweet.

Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesman, told Arab News that troops were ready to confront any military action by the Houthis in response to the US announcement. “The national army is prepared to inflict defeat on the militia. The Houthis have committed heinous crimes against Yemenis since Sept. 21, 2014.”

Yemeni military and political experts noted that aggressive actions by the Houthis would only consolidate grounds for the designation and would push more countries into backing the decision.

“The Houthis have no other option but to comply with peace efforts. They are responsible for ruining the biggest political process in Yemen brokered by the world,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News, referring to the Houthi coup.

Nadwa Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, claimed that only a military operation would put an end to the Houthi threat and push the group into accepting peace initiatives.

In a tweet, she said: “Neither political negotiations with Houthis nor their designation alone will contain their (and Iran’s threat). Only a strong and well-planned ground military action that weakens them will neutralize their threat and bring Yemen closer to peace.”

News of the US designation negatively impacted exchange markets in the country, causing the Yemeni currency to fall again. Local moneychangers told Arab News that the Yemeni riyal was traded at 780 against the dollar on Tuesday, falling from 715 on Sunday. The riyal regained 20 percent of its value last month when a new government was formed and returned to Aden under the Riyadh Agreement.
 


Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
Updated 15 min 33 sec ago

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
  • More than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out
  • The orders came after twin suicide attacks claimed by Daesh killed 32 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad.
On Sunday, an official from Iraq’s presidency told AFP more than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out.
“We are continuing to sign off on more,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The orders were disclosed to AFP after twin suicide attacks claimed by the Daesh group on Thursday killed at least 32 people in a crowded open-air Baghdad market.
The blasts were a jolting reminder of the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite the government declaring victory over them in late 2017.
The official, along with judicial sources contacted by AFP, could not provide additional details on when the executions may take place or if they included foreigners convicted of belonging to IS.
A 2005 law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” which can include membership of an extremist group even if they are not convicted of any specific acts.
Rights groups have warned that executions were being used for political reasons.
“Leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they’re taking... (these issues) seriously,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she told AFP on Sunday.
In mid-2018, outgoing Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced 13 executions under the Counter-Terror Law, and for the first time authorities published pictures of the hangings.
That came after Daesh killed eight civilians.


Since the official declaration of victory over Daesh, Iraq’s courts have sentenced hundreds to death for crimes perpetrated during the jihadists’ 2014 seizure of around a third of the country and their brutal three-year hold over cities including Mosul.
But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the president.
Barham Saleh, who has held the post since 2018, is known to be personally against capital punishment, and has resisted signing execution orders in the past.
Some Iraqis took to social media to demand tougher action from Saleh after Thursday’s attack, accusing him of “not carrying out the sentences” and risking a prison break.
Despite Saleh’s moderating influence, Iraq in 2019 carried out the fourth highest number of executions among nations worldwide, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Iraq carried out 100 executions that year — one out of every seven worldwide.
Judicial sources told AFP at least 30 executions took place in 2020.
They include 21 men convicted of “terrorism” and executed at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in November.
The move sparked condemnations from the United Nations, which described the news as “deeply troubling” and called on Iraq to halt any further planned executions.


Rights groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, carrying out rushed trials on circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense.
They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, saying those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened jihadists, facilitating radicalization.
Iraq’s government has declined to provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, including how many are facing terrorism-related charges, although some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for purported Daesh links.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said late last year that given such gaps in Iraq’s legal system, implementing capital punishment “may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State.”
Ali Bayati, a leading member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP the country had “limited options.”
“Capital punishment is part of the Iraqi legal system — and we do not have real rehabilitation centers,” he said.
“We lack clear guarantees and real transparency in the interrogation and ruling sessions, and in allowing human rights organizations to play their role.”