UN Security Council calls Houthis a terrorist group for first time, expands arms embargo

Update The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. (Reuters/File Photo)
The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 01 March 2022

UN Security Council calls Houthis a terrorist group for first time, expands arms embargo

The UN Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • New, tougher resolution follows spate of recent attacks on targets in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and assaults on international shipping in the Red Sea
  • Terrorist designation also reflects group’s attacks on civilians in Yemen, its ‘policy of sexual violence,’ recruitment of child soldiers, and use of landmines

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Monday voted to adopt a draft resolution on Yemen that expands the scope of an existing arms embargo targeting the leaders of the Houthi militia, including Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, to encompass the entire membership of the Iran-backed group.

In addition, the resolution labels the Houthis as a terrorist group for the first time, following an ongoing series of cross-border drone and missile attacks targeting the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and a wide range of violations affecting the Yemeni people and the international community.

It also renews financial sanctions and a travel ban on senior members of the Houthi militia for an additional year

Security Council Resolution 2624, which was tabled by the UAE, condemns the continuing supply of weapons and weapon components to the Houthis from outside Yemen in violation of the arms embargo established by Resolution 2216 in 2015. It urges all UN member states to step up efforts “to combat the smuggling of weapons and components via land and sea routes, to ensure implementation of the targeted arms embargo.”

Iran is accused of providing the Houthis with training and a growing arsenal of sophisticated weaponry and technology, including anti-tank guided missiles, sea mines, explosive-laden drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, unmanned maritime vehicles.

Eleven of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution; Ireland, Mexico, Brazil and Norway abstained because of humanitarian concerns.

In the run-up to the vote on Monday, negotiations were especially intense around the question of whether or not the Houthis should be designated as a terrorist organization. Some members expressed concerns that this might hinder the efforts of the UN’s envoy to Yemen to broker peace, and about its possible negative effect on humanitarian operations in Yemen.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed by the war, which has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The resolution stresses that the new measures are “not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of Yemen, nor civilian access to humanitarian assistance, commercial imports or remittances.”

It also calls on states to fully comply with the principles of international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law, in the implementation of sanctions.

In addition to the ongoing cross-border attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group also reflects its attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen; its “policy of sexual violence and repression against politically active and professional women;” its recruitment of children for warfare; its incitement to violence against religious groups; and its indiscriminate use of landmines.

“The Houthis have also obstructed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Yemen, or access to or distribution of humanitarian assistance in Yemen,” according to the text of the resolution, which adds that sexual violence and violence against children during armed conflict are sanctionable acts that “threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen.”

The Security Council also condemned “in the strongest terms” the growing number of attacks by the Houthis on civilian and commercial targets, and their seizure of commercial vessels in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. Members demanded the release of the crew of the UAE-registered merchant vessel Rwabee, who have been detained by the terrorist group since mid-January

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, welcomed the adoption of the resolution and the addition of the entire Houthi organization to the Yemen sanctions list in response to their “flagrant violations and heinous attacks.”

It will, she said, reduce the group’s military capabilities, and help to prevent its hostile actions toward civilian vessels that threaten shipping routes and international trade. 

Nusseibeh called on the Houthis to halt their terrorist, cross-border attacks and return to the negotiation table and participate in a serious political process. 

“We emphasize that there is no military solution to the crisis in Yemen,” she said. “The only way to overcome the current crisis is through concerted efforts to reach a Yemen-led, Yemeni-owned political solution, under the auspices of the United Nations.”

In their explanation of the vote, council members condemned the attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Trine Heimerback, Norway’s deputy permanent representative, backed the implementation of targeted sanctions that can help to support “a path toward a political settlement and contribute to the protection of civilians.”

She added: “Joint action by the council to limit the Houthi’s capabilities to launch attacks and harm civilians is therefore welcome.”

However, she noted that the resolution fails to address Norway’s key concern about the possible negative effects it might have on the peace process and humanitarian operations in Yemen.

She said her country fears that the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization, “absent a clear definition (by the UN charter,) may have negative impact on UN efforts to facilitate a political solution in Yemen (and) unintended humanitarian consequences (that) could negatively impact UN efforts to address large-scale humanitarian needs in Yemen.”

Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, said his country is alarmed by “the increasing trend of transnational groups undertaking attacks outside a territory in which they are engaged in peace processes.”

He added that the Houthi attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia “cross over an unacceptable threshold (and) contradict this council’s effort to help the mediation of peace in Yemen.”

“It is time for the Security Council to limit such incentives for groups that have launched cross-border attacks as a way to draw attention to themselves and leverage in their national positions,” Kimani said.

“Sanctions such as these being leveled today help reinforce to those groups that they will need to cease their external attacks to have any hope of being accepted as legitimate political actors.”

The Houthis’ control over the Yemeni population and their manipulation of humanitarian aid must not be tolerated by the council, he added.

“Surely we are aware by now that attacks on civilians and civilian objects are some of the gravest drivers of humanitarian crises,” Kimani said. “Countering terrorism and supporting humanitarian action are not in conflict with one another.

“Humanitarian organizations must be enabled to better operate in the (humanitarian) space to avoid exploitation by groups. Otherwise we will be discussing the imprisonment of entire populations (as a means) to exploit the humanitarian response to their crisis.”

The Kenyan envoy also addressed the concerns among some council members about the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization on the grounds that such a designation is not clearly defined by the UN Charter.

“Terrorism is recognizable at the intuitive human level,” Kimani said. “An attack on an airport, such as the one we saw evidence of in the UAE, constitutes terrorism,” just as much as the 2013 shooting of dozens of civilians at a mall in Nairobi, “whether the UN has an official legal position or not” on the matter.

He called on council members to “stand together against terrorism” and added: “Let us lower the incentive for cross-border attacks by groups that we are trying to push into national stabilization and peace processes.”


Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
Updated 20 sec ago

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
  • Country’s anti-torture unit lacks govt budget, laws and courts ‘ineffective’

LONDON: Lebanese authorities must protect people from torture and ill-treatment in detention, a group of organizations including Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The appeal came on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW, said: “Despite an improvement to Lebanon’s anti-torture framework on paper, torture remains prevalent, and accountability for torture and ill-treatment is elusive.

“Lebanon needs to show that it is serious about combating torture, and it should start by moving forward the many torture complaints that have been languishing before the judiciary without effective investigations.”

In 2019, 44-year-old Hassan Al-Dika died in custody reportedly as a result of torture. An HRW investigation found that judicial authorities failed to investigate Al-Dika’s allegations of torture before his death.

They had also tasked the same security agency that Al-Dika accused of torture with investigating his claims.

And in the case of actor Ziad Itani, who was accused and later exonerated of spying for Israel, Lebanese justice authorities have yet to take action regarding his claims of torture at the hands of State Security officials.

The Lebanese Parliament passed a law criminalizing torture in 2017. Two years later the government appointed five members to the National Preventative Mechanism against Torture.

But the unit has yet to be allocated a budget to allow the fulfillment of its mandate.

“The Lebanese authorities should promptly and impartially investigate all complaints of torture, allocate a sufficient budget to allow the torture prevention unit to get to work, and bring the anti-torture law in line with international standards,” Majzoub said.

Torture remains prevalent in Lebanon, despite complaints regularly being filed under the 2017 law.

The HRW warned that the 2017 law fails to abide by Lebanon’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture, because it fails to criminalize cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday
Updated 27 June 2022

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

CAIRO: Bahraini Royal Court says Egyptian President to visit kingdom on Tuesday, will hold talks with King, the state-run news agency said.  

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will receive President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his accompanying delegation upon his arrival in Bahrain tomorrow, Bahrain news agency said. 

During  the visit, the leaders will hold talks related to bilateral relations, in addition to the latest developments on the regional, Arab and international arenas.


Sudan to recall ambassador to Ethiopia after alleged executions

Sudan to recall ambassador to Ethiopia after alleged executions
Updated 27 June 2022

Sudan to recall ambassador to Ethiopia after alleged executions

Sudan to recall ambassador to Ethiopia after alleged executions

KHARTOUM: Sudan said Monday it will recall its ambassador to Addis Ababa for “consultations” following accusations that the Ethiopian army executed seven captured Sudanese soldiers and a civilian.
“In an act that contravenes all laws and customs of war and international humanitarian law, the Ethiopian army executed seven Sudanese soldiers and a citizen who were their captives,” the Sudanese armed forces said late Sunday.
The army said “this treacherous act will not pass,” vowing to respond to “this cowardly behavior.”
Tensions have risen in recent years, sparking sporadic armed clashes, over the Al-Fashaqa border strip which is close to Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region.
There was no immediate response from Ethiopia.
A Sudanese military official who requested anonymity told AFP the soldiers were taken into captivity from a border area close to the Al-Fashaqa region.
On Monday, Sudan’s foreign ministry said it “will immediately recall its ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations” and submit a complaint with the UN Security Council.
“The Ethiopian ambassador to Khartoum will also be summoned to inform him of Sudan’s condemnation of this inhumane behavior,” the ministry said.
Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa have soured over Al-Fashaqa, a fertile strip long cultivated by Ethiopian farmers but claimed by Sudan, sparking sporadic deadly clashes between the Sudanese and Ethiopian sides.
Tensions were heightened further after fighting erupted in Tigray in November 2020, sending tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into Sudan.
Khartoum and Addis Ababa have since been locked in a tense war of words, trading accusations of violence and territorial violations.
The border dispute feeds into wider tensions in the region, including over Ethiopia’s controversial Blue Nile dam.
Sudan and Egypt, both downstream countries, have been opposed to the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and pushed for an agreement over the filling of its reservoir and the operation of the dam.
In February, Khartoum and Cairo slammed Addis Ababa for unilaterally deciding to start power generation at the dam.


Cyberattack forces Iran steel company to halt production

Cyberattack forces Iran steel company to halt production
The company’s website appeared to be out of service. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Cyberattack forces Iran steel company to halt production

Cyberattack forces Iran steel company to halt production
  • The state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company said in a statement that experts had determined the firm was unable to continue operations “due to technical problems and will be closed until further notice” following “cyberattacks”

DUBAI: One of Iran’s biggest steel companies said on Monday it was forced to halt production after being hit by a cyberattack, apparently marking one of the biggest such assaults on the country’s strategic industrial sector in recent memory.
The state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company said in a statement that experts had determined the firm was unable to continue operations “due to technical problems and will be closed until further notice” following “cyberattacks.” The company’s website appeared to be out of service.
A local news channel, Jamaran, reported that the attack failed to cause any structural damage to the steel mill since the factory happened to be non-operational at the time due to an electricity outage.
The company did not blame any specific group for the assault, which constitutes just the latest example of an attack targeting the country’s services in recent weeks. Iran has previously accused the United States and Israel for cyberattacks that have targeted and crippled the country’s infrastructure.
Khuzestan Steel Company, based in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, has a monopoly on steel production in Iran along with two other major state-owned firms. Founded before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the company for decades afterward had some production lines supplied by German, Italian and Japanese companies.


Iran says ‘ball in US court’ for revival of 2015 nuclear deal

Iran says ‘ball in US court’ for revival of 2015 nuclear deal
“The ball is in Washington’s court now,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Iran says ‘ball in US court’ for revival of 2015 nuclear deal

Iran says ‘ball in US court’ for revival of 2015 nuclear deal
  • The statement comes amid expectations that talks to save the pact will resume soon after the top EU diplomat’s trip to the Islamic Republic

DUBAI: Iran said on Monday that the revival of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers depends on Washington, amid expectations that talks to save the pact will resume soon after the top EU diplomat’s trip to the Islamic Republic.
“The ball is in Washington’s court now,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly televised news conference.