Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Yemen reverses decision to expel UN human rights official

Yemen has decided to rescind its order to expel, George Abu al-Zulof, the top UN human rights representative in the country.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Ambassador to the UN , Khaled Alyemany, said the government had decided "to maintain the status quo." There were reports last Thursday that the Yemen Foreign Ministry had declared al-Zulof as persona non grata in Yemen. The ministry accused al-Zulof of not being impartial in his assessment of the human rights situation in Yemen.
The letter to the UN said "excesses" by the rights office had led for a request that al-Zulof be replaced. However "because of the fuss created around the matter," the government decided to allow more time for a review of its relationship with the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR). The letter went on:"For more cooperation between the government of Yemen and all organs and bodies of the United Nations, the government has decided to maintain the status quo of the country representative of the OHCHR representative in Yemen,"
UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein urged the Yemen government to allow al-Zulof to remain in his position. He said the expulsion of al-Zulof was "unwarranted, counter-productive and damaging to the government and its coalition partners." Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general issued a statement saying that he had full confidence in al-Zulof and had urged the Yemeni government to reconsider its position.
Before the expulsion notice the OHCHR had received allegations that Saudi-led bombing attacks had used cluster bombs. Ban also expressed his concern about the intensified use of airstrikes and even warned that the use of the cluster bombs in populated areas could be a war crime according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. Dujarric said the secretary general was particularly concerned about bombing of civilian buildings such as a wedding hall, the Chamber of Commerce and a center for the blind in Sanaa, the capital. Zeid said that both said: "Unfortunately, both sides have very clearly committed violations, resulting in some 2,800 civilian deaths over the past nine months."
Although there were peace negotiations in December and a ceasefire was declared, both sides constantly violated it. The truce was formally ended last weekend just as the Saudis broke off relations with Iran. Iranian protesters attacked and damaged the Saudi embassy in Tehran after the Saudis executed a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.
Ismail Cheikh Ahmed, the UN special envoy to envoy is attempting to get both sides together once again for talks and to negotiate a new ceasefire. He has been in the Saudi capital Ryadh and will be in Yemen soon. The former president Ali Saleh, who supports the Houthis, says there is no point in negotiating with the current president of Yemen Mansour Hadi, and that only negotiations with the Saudis would be worthwhile.


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