Houthi terror designation ‘demise sentence’ for Yemenis, UN officers warn


Jan 14, 2021

Top UN officers urged the United States to reverse its plan to label Yemen’s Houthis a overseas terrorist group, warning the designation “will be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent people.”

“We fear that there will be inevitably a chilling effect on my efforts to bring the parties together,” UN particular envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths instructed the Security Council on Thursday. “The decision will contribute to the prospect of famine in Yemen and should be revoked based on humanitarian grounds at the earliest opportunity.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo introduced on Sunday that he plans to inform Congress of his intention to designate the insurgent group, a move he mentioned would advance peace within the area and punish the Houthis for terrorist exercise. The designation is about to take impact on Jan. 19 — a day earlier than President-elect Joe Biden takes workplace. 

Yemen is embroiled in a six-year-long civil warfare pitting the Houthis in opposition to a Saudi-led army coalition that intervened on behalf of the internationally acknowledged authorities in 2015. The outgoing administration of Donald Trump views the Houthis as a proxy of Iran, and the designation is seen as the most recent try to complicate Biden’s pledge to revive diplomacy with Tehran. 

Relief organizations in Yemen had been fast to sentence Pompeo’s announcement, warning it’s going to delay or solely halt the supply of meals and drugs in a rustic the place an estimated 80% of the inhabitants depends on humanitarian help to outlive. 

Under US legislation, offering assist to the Houthis as soon as they’re designated a overseas terrorist group can be unlawful and companies say the blacklisting places their workers vulnerable to prosecution. Because the Houthis are the de facto authorities throughout a lot of Yemen, aid employees say interacting with them is unavoidable. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross mentioned in an announcement Thursday it was involved that the designation would produce a chilling impact on humanitarian motion, together with doable de-risking from the banking and personal sectors. 

“We hear the considerations that this designation will have an effect on the humanitarian state of affairs in Yemen,” deputy US ambassador Richard Mills instructed the 15-member council on Thursday, including that the Treasury Department will challenge licenses to cut back the designation’s affect on sure humanitarian exercise.

“It is critical that aid reaches those in need reliably and quickly. We call on all parties to support relief efforts, while also isolating and exposing [Ansar Allah] for the terrorist organization that it is,” Mills mentioned. 

Commercial shippers and suppliers are anticipated to halt deliveries to Yemen — which imports 90% of its meals — on account of the designation, triggering a “famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years,” UN assist chief Mark Lowcock instructed the Security Council. “Would licenses and exemptions for aid agencies prevent that? The answer is no.”

“Aid agencies give people vouchers or cash to buy commercially imported food in the market. Aid agencies cannot — they simply cannot — replace the commercial import system,” he mentioned. 

David Beasley, the UN meals chief, echoed his considerations that the designation would trigger even better meals insecurity throughout Yemen, a rustic the UN considers to be the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. 

“We are struggling now without the designation. With the designation, it’s going to be catastrophic,” he mentioned. 

Biden has pledged to finish US assist for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and is anticipated to rapidly reverse the Houthi designation. Still, aid organizations warn the designation will trigger irreparable harm to their work on the bottom. 

As Oxfam America’s humanitarian coverage lead Scott Paul put it, “Shutting down a humanitarian operation is like turning off a light switch, and scaling one up is like rewiring an entire house.”