No Yemen sanctions for now, but schemers be warned

The P3 are engaged in intensive discussions over the content of a British drafted resolution on Yemen

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The P3 (U.S., UK and France), with the potential support of Russia and China, are engaged in intensive discussions over the content of a British drafted resolution on Yemen. The draft resolution, seen by Al Arabiya, calls for the creation of a sanctions committee, but does not actually sanction anyone.


If the draft becomes a Security Council resolution, the sanction committee will possess the power to impose travel bans and to freeze the assets of those who hinder the successful completion of the transitional period in Yemen which aims to change the country into a Federal Democratic one.

The draft “welcomes the Yemeni government’s Asset Recovery Law, and supports the efforts of the government and people of Yemen to implement this law.” This excerpt can be interpreted as a clear warning to the men of the old regime ,who engage in any obstructionist effort to hinder the creation of the new Yemen, that they risk having their assets - gathered during their reign of power - recouped for the benefit of the people of Yemen.

An interesting part of the resolution

However, the most interesting part of the resolution remains the creation of a Sanctions Committee under article number 41 of chapter seven, capable of banning the travel or freezing the assets of those who try to “ act to undermine the successful completion of the political transition, as outlined in the GCC Initiative and Implementation Mechanism Agreement, including article 45 of the National Dialogue Conference’s Good Government Working report.”

The article also targets those who “impede the implementation of the recommendations of the final report of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference through violence, attacks on essential infrastructure, acts of terrorism, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.”

The Sanctions Committee shall have the power to review information regarding those individuals who may be engaged in obstructionist efforts and shall be required to report to the Security Council within 60 days of passing the resolution, and periodically thereafter, as deemed necessary by the Sanctions Committee.

As I stated before, threatening others with sanctions does not mean that such sanctions will necessarily be imposed. This draft resolution does not currently impose any sanctions on anyone. Nevertheless, the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is clearly at risk for the imposition of sanctions as his name is mentioned twice in the draft as a spoiler. His former vice-president, Ali Salim al-Beidh, is also mentioned once as an obstructionist arguing “efforts by media controlled by both of them to delegitimize the transition process, incite violence, and frustrate the legitimate aspirations for peaceful change of the people of Yemen.” However, the draft resolution is not necessarily punitive in nature, but rather provides an incentive for the former president and vice-president of Yemen to assist in the transitional process for a new Yemen on the basis that its failure shall be as costly to them personally as it is to the people of Yemen.

An important legal point

Now we come to a very important legal point that has garnered little attention. The Security Council only sanctions persons if there are already American government sanctions against them, according to one U.N. legal expert. The reason for this is that the sanctioned person can take the American government to court if they freeze his assets in accordance with a Security Council resolution. American courts work in accordance with American law and not U.N. resolutions. Thus, if there are no U.S. government sanctions against him/her, he/she will most likely win the case in an American court of law. There is a similar case pending in the UK and that person who filed the case appears to be winning. Hence, before imposing sanctions on former President Saleh or Vice-President al-Beidh, it is prudent to impose U.S. sanctions on the two men, or any other person that fits the “spoiler” description.

Nonetheless, if I were Saleh or al-Beidh, I wouldn’t be sleeping soundly tonight. The American government does have an Executive Order signed by President Barak Obama on May 16, 2012 that allows the blocking of Property of Persons “threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen.”

This Executive Order has not been implemented against any person in Yemen to date and has not been acted upon, but actions against obstructionists and spoilers may be taken simultaneously by the U.S. government and the Security Council.

Deep concern

The UK draft resolution also expresses deep concern at the political, security, economic and humanitarian situation in Yemen. The draft condemns all terrorist, and other, attacks against civilians, oil, gas and electricity infrastructure and against the legitimate authorities. It further recognizes that the formidable economic and social challenges confronting Yemen have left many Yemenis in acute need of humanitarian assistance. The draft resolution also stresses the need for comprehensive, independent and impartial investigations consistent with international standards into alleged human rights violations and abuses to ensure full accountability.

As for the next step in the Yemeni transitional process, the draft resolution highlights the importance of drafting of a new constitution, and the holding of a referendum on this constitution followed by timely free elections.

From conversations with diplomats in New York, there is a general sense of optimism in the air that the P3 will gain the support of Russia and China in the Security Council with few amendment to this draft.


Talal al-Haj is Al Arabiya News Channel’s bureau chief for New York and the United Nations.

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