The relentless use of US assassination drones in Yemen has once again put the Yemeni government on the spot light. Sana’a(the Yemeni capital) is blamed for failing to meet the people’s demand and bring an end to what many believe is the illegal targeted killing of Yemenis.
President Obama, in a speech on drones earlier this year, claimed America’s actions are legal – 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. US officials claim that the drone program in Yemen-which has claimed the lives of about 15 Yemenis since June- is being conducted with the cooperation of the Yemeni government.
Due to the increase in drone attacks in Yemen, many rights activists and international anti-war organizations have called on the administration of US President Barack Obama to end its drone program in the country. Members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a US-supported initiative intended to influence the political future of Yemen after the overthrow of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, overwhelmingly voted to criminalize drone strikes in Yemen. While it is clear that no leader may lawfully authorize another sovereign to slaughter his own people, the decision to criminalize drones strikes sends a clear warning message to current Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi – if the current practice is to continue, it may well lead to a criminal prosecution.
Through his unconditional consent to the use of drones in his country, President Hadi, a former major general who was elected president early in 2012, has already alienated many of his supporters – especially those people who, like him, are from the southern region, which bears the brunt of the strikes.
In a Press TV interview, Baraa Shiban, project coordinator for the London-based human rights organization, Reprieve, stated that his organization has commenced an anti-US drone campaign in Yemen. A member of the transitional justice team in the National Dialog Conference, Mr. Shiban says they have successfully passed a law in the first phase of the conference to criminalize killings outside the rule of law.
Press TV also reported that Sahar Ghanem, also a national dialogue member, stated that according to medical experts, nearly 70 percent of drone attack survivors, including many children, are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They are now terrified to even leave their homes and go to school in areas of the country which have experienced numerous US assassination drone strikes.
In a recent meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, President Hadi stated that he hoped that the dialogue will lead “Yemen into security and stability”, a major goal of the NDC. However, observers cite an uneasy situation arising in relation to the intentions and expectations of US involvement in Yemeni internal affairs via the NDC. Though injecting large sums into the push for ‘democratic reforms’ in Yemen, there are apparent rankles of hypocrisy visible to Yemenis as the US ‘ignores outcomes and decisions of the NDC that it doesn’t like’, mentioned Ghada Eldemellawy, investigator for the NGO Reprieve, which currently represents 15 prisoners in Guantanamo, including three Yemenis. Ms. Eldemellawy stated that although US President Obama claims that the drone program is operating in order to safeguard America’s national security, the targeting killings have had the opposite effect of rallying more Yemenis towards aggressive and defensive attitudes and actions – extremism. Some militants may have died through these strikes, but the US is losing the long battle for hearts and minds.