Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference decision to criminalise drone strikes is an essential step toward a stable Yemen.
al Ja’zeera, 2 August 2013
“America’s actions are legal” claimed President Obama in a speech on drones earlier this year. It was the latest in a string of attempts made by his administration to justify covert strikes carried out by the US overseas – in countries including the Arab peninsula’s poorest nation, Yemen.
But back in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, it appears the country’s civil society disagrees. Members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) – a US-supported initiative which will map out Yemen’s post-Arab Spring future – overwhelmingly voted to criminalise drone strikes in Yemen. The Yemeni people have spoken. Now Presidents Hadi and Obama must listen – for their own sake, as much as that of Yemen.
While it is clear that no leader may lawfully authorise another sovereign to slaughter his own people, the decision to criminalise drones strikes sends a clear warning message to Hadi – if the current practice is to continue, it may well lead to a criminal prosecution.
But it is not only the threat of a jail cell that should focus the Yemeni President’s mind. Through his unconditional consent to the use of drones in his country, President Hadi has already alienated many of his supporters, especially those, like him, from the south, which bear the brunt of the strikes.