Letter dated 27 January 2017 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen addressed to the President of the Security Council - Final report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen (S/2017/81) [EN/AR]

Report
from UN Security Council
Published on 31 Jan 2017 View Original
preview

The members of the Panel of Experts on Yemen have the honour to transmit herewith the final report of the Panel, prepared in accordance with paragraph 6 of resolution 2266 (2016).

The report was provided to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014) on 11 January 2017 and considered by the Committee on 27 January 2017.

We would appreciate it if the present letter and the report were brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council and issued as a document of the Council.

(Signed) Ahmed Himmiche
Coordinator
Panel of Experts on Yemen

(Signed) Dakshinie Ruwanthika Gunaratne
Expert

(Signed) Gregory Johnsen
Expert

(Signed) Adrian Wilkinson
Expert

Final report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen

Summary

The Panel of Experts on Yemen considers that, after nearly two years of conflict in Yemen, an outright military victory by any one side is no longer a realistic possibility in the near term. The country has fractured into competing power centres, with the Houthi-Saleh alliance controlling much of the northern highlands and the legitimate Government, backed by forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, seeking to build capacity to administer parts of the south and the east. To date, the parties have not demonstrated sustained interest in or commitment to a political settlement or peace talks.

The Panel assesses that the Houthi and Saleh forces continue to operate as part of a military alliance, while maintaining separate lines of command and control at the operational level. The Panel has identified the increased use by the Houthis of battle-winning weapons, such as anti-tank guided missiles that were not in the pre-conflict Yemeni stockpile. These missiles are covertly shipped to the Houthi-Saleh alliance over land, along a new main supply route from the border with Oman. The Houthis have also continued to use short-range ballistic missiles and free-flight rockets against Saudi Arabian towns within 300 km of the border, to some political and propaganda effect.

The air campaign waged by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, while devastating to Yemeni infrastructure and civilians, has failed to dent the political will of the Houthi-Saleh alliance to continue the conflict. Maritime attacks in the Red Sea in late 2016 have increased the risk of the conflict spreading regionally. The Houthi-Saleh alliance has demonstrated that it has an effective anti-ship capability, with one successful attack against a United Arab Emirates naval ship, and other attacks eliciting a cruise missile response by the United States Navy against Houthi land radar stations. There has also been a failed improvised explosive device attack by an as yet unidentified party against a large liquid nitrogen gas tanker heading north through the Bab al-Mandab strait.

Although the military front lines have remained largely the same, the near-constant clashes and casualties notwithstanding, the political landscape has shifted. The Panel has identified a tightening of the Houthi-Saleh political alliance, culminating in the establishment of a Sana’a-based supreme political council. On 28 November, this body announced a new 42-person government. The Panel believes this to be an attempt by the alliance to create “facts on the ground” by establishing a functioning, de facto government that will be difficult to uproot. It is, in effect, a new “bureaucratic” front to the conflict. Throughout 2016, the alliance has constantly undertaken acts that are exclusively within the authority of the legitimate Government.

The transfer of the Central Bank to Aden by the Government has effectively opened an “economic” front to the conflict, aimed at denying the Houthi-Saleh alliance the resources necessary to support continued hostilities or to administer the territory under its control. It has also significantly reduced the provision of material and services that are indispensable to the survival of civilians. The move may result in accelerating the impending humanitarian catastrophe in areas under the control of the alliance.

Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) affiliate in Yemen are now actively exploiting the changing political environment and governance vacuums to recruit new members and stage new attacks and are laying the foundation for terrorist networks that may last for years. The Panel assesses that AQAP is pursuing a two-track strategy of seeking to control and administer territory in Yemen to serve as a base, while simultaneously looking to plot and execute attacks against the West. ISIL experienced a leadership restructuring early in 2016 and is looking to attract new recruits after a wave of defections in the first half of the year. The improvised explosive device threat from terrorist groups has also increased significantly, with the introduction of new technology and tactics into Yemen in 2016. It cannot be assumed that the use of this technology is now the preserve of a single group in the light of the movement of fighters and thus the exchange of technical knowledge between AQAP, ISIL, Houthi or Saleh forces and “resistance” forces affiliated to the President. Improvised explosive devices are also acting as a force multiplier for armed groups operating outside the control of the Government, reducing their current and future dependence on conventional weapons. This has all significantly increased the overall risk to civilians from explosive remnants of war.

The conflict has seen widespread violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. The Panel has undertaken detailed investigations into some of these incidents and has sufficient grounds to believe that the coalition led by Saudi Arabia did not comply with international humanitarian law in at least 10 air strikes that targeted houses, markets, factories and a hospital. It is also highly likely that the Houthi and Saleh forces did not comply with international humanitarian law in at least three incidents when they fired explosive ordnance at a market, a house and a hospital.

There have also been widespread and systematic violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and human rights norms by officials and security forces affiliated to the Government and to the Houthis. The Panel has investigated cases of forced displacement of civilians and concludes that there are indications of a governorate-level policy, with clear violations by the Government in Aden and Lahij. The Panel has concluded that the Houthis, as well as Hadrami Elite Forces aligned with the Government and the United Arab Emirates, have violated international humanitarian law and human rights law and norms on at least 12 and 6 occasions, respectively, by forcibly disappearing individuals. The Houthi security forces in particular routinely use torture and commit international humanitarian law violations and human rights abuses relating to deprivation of liberty. The Panel also documented many cases of violations against hospitals, medical staff, children and religious minorities. It concludes that the violations by the Houthi-Saleh alliance are sufficiently routine, widespread and systematic to implicate its top leadership.

All parties to the conflict have obstructed the distribution of humanitarian assistance within Yemen. The methods of obstruction vary, including the denial of movement, threats to humanitarian staff and the placing of conditions that seek to influence where and how aid is distributed.

The Panel continued its investigations into the financial networks of designated individuals and has identified that Khaled Ali Abdullah Saleh has a significant role in the management of financial assets on behalf of listed individuals Ali Abdullah Saleh (YEi.003) and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh (YEi.005). The Panel has identified suspicious transfers of significant funds during the period 2014-2016, involving six companies and five banks in five countries, that certainly fall well outside the normal fund management practices of high-wealth individuals. The Panel has also identified a company named Raydan Investments and accounts used by Khaled Ali Abdullah Saleh to launder $83,953,782 within a three-week period in December 2014.

The financial activities, in terms of regional black market arms trafficking, of Fares Mohammed Mana’a (SOi.008) have also come to the attention of the Panel, in particular since he was appointed as minister of state in the new Sana’a-based government of 28 November and has known connections to both Ali Abdullah Saleh (YEi.003) and the Houthis. He is freely travelling on a Yemeni diplomatic passport, including within the Schengen area. This case is just one illustration of how opportunistic businesspeople and criminal entities are benefiting from the conflict using governmental privileges and immunities. It is in their vested interest to use their influence to undermine any prospect for peaceful settlement.

Only the continuation and effective implementation of the targeted sanctions regime will deter such individuals and their supporters from participating in acts that threaten the peace and security of Yemen. If well implemented, delisting within the sanctions regime could offer incentives for those who are willing to engage constructively for a better Yemen.