UN approves sanctions against political obstructers in Yemen

Security Council resolution authorizes sanctions against those who obstruct political transition or violate human rights

Yemenis shout slogans outside the Sanaa home of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in protest of ongoing battles between Shia and Salafi Sunni groups in the northern town of Damaj in November 2013.
Mohhammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday authorized sanctions against anyone in Yemen who obstructs the country's political transition or commits human rights violations, but stopped short of blacklisting any specific individuals.

The British-drafted resolution was adopted unanimously, Reuters reported. It leaves the imposition of asset freezes and travel bans on specific individuals to a newly created U.N. sanctions committee for Yemen, which will be made up of all 15 council members.

"The council has made clear that we remain firmly committed to supporting Yemen as it implements subsequent steps in the transition process, including constitutional reform and national elections," United States Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told the council.

"The council has taken the forward-leaning step of setting up a committee that is prepared to sanction individuals for impeding the ongoing transition in Yemen," she said, adding that the council could now "respond in a timely manner to those who seek to derail progress."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant also welcomed the resolution and told the council that it indicated the world was determined to support the Yemeni people and their government as they strive to stabilize the country.

But it also contains clear warnings. "Those wishing to derail the political transition will face swift and firm consequences through the new sanctions committee," he said.

"The resolution is clear, and I quote, 'the transition process requires turning the page from the presidency of Ali Abdullah Saleh'."

After the vote, "I am pleased that today the council took decisive action," the U.N.'s special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, told reporters. There was a "systematic pattern of obstruction" and "serious security challenges" in the country, he said.

The Security Council has previously expressed concern over reports of interference by Saleh.

In November, Benomar accused members of Saleh's circle of obstructing reconciliation talks In Yemen aimed at completing a power transfer deal that eased Saleh out of office.

Yemen's U.N. Ambassador, Jamal Abdullah Al-Sallal, also welcomed the adoption of the resolution and the creation of the sanctions regime.

"We do not wish to return to square one, to confront violence and a slide toward civil war," he said.

A mass uprising linked to the Arab Spring protests across the region unseated Saleh from power in late 2011. His deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, took over the presidency in 2011 and was the sole candidate in the 2012 presidential election.

In early February, Hadi approved the division of Yemen into a federal union of six regions in line with a two-year plan to transition the country to democracy.

But instability in Yemen is an ongoing, international concern. Saleh's continuing sway in the country worries its Gulf neighbors and Western nations fearful that the transition could descend into chaos.

The former British colony is home to one of the most active branches of Al-Qaeda and has struggled to quell rebels from the Shia Houthi movement in the country's north.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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