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On South Yemen, Could Al-Beidh Be Sanctioned As "Spoiler" by UNSC For Secession Talk?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 4 -- The UN claims it respects freedom of speech and the right to espouse political views including secession. But with a Yemen resolution being prepared by the UN Security Council, ostensibly directed at political spoilers, could a continued call for the (renewed) independence of South Yemen result in sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freeze?

Back on February 15, 2013 the Security Council issued a Presidential Statement expressing

"concern over reports of interference in the transition by individuals in Yemen representing the former regime, the former opposition, and others who do not adhere to the guiding principles of the Implementation Mechanism Agreement for the transition process, including former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and former Vice-President Ali Salim Al-Beidh. The Security Council reiterates its readiness to consider further measures, including under Article 41 of the UN Charter"

  Ali Salim Al-Beidh was formerly the president of South Yemen, which until 1990 was the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Now based in Lebanon -- or "south Beirut" as some darkly point out, with its Shi'a Crescent connotation -- Ali Salim Al-Beidh is once again asserting the right of southern Yemen to be independent.

  Does that alone make him a spoiler, legitimately subject to UN Security Council sanctions? South Sudan long advocated for the independence it ultimately received. So there is nothing per se spoiler about such advocacy.

  The Security Council has just returned from a French-led trip to Mali. They traveled to Mopti, near the north, and met with leaders from some communities in the north, but not Kidal. Former colonial power France has said all must participate in a dialogue. Would refusal to, and espousing of a right to independence, be considered sanction-able by the Security Council?

  Just before the February 2 US Super Bowl, a lengthy segment reading out the US Declaration of Independence was read out. Obviously there was no UN or Security Council at the time. But it's worth reflecting on: is there a right to advocate for independence?

  The loophole may be the allegation of external support, an allegation amplified and self-proved in Gulf and Western media. If groups in Yemen are making advances, they must have support from Iran, the dark talk goes -- therefore, they should be stopped and sanctioned; they are terrorists.

  Aren't armed groups in Syria getting external support? Those that advocate secession or even just autonomy, like the Rojava Kurds, are excluded from the process of Geneva Two. But are they spoilers? Sanctionable? There is no law, no protection of free speech or political participation. This is the UN.

  Now al-Beidh may well have other problems; it may be as UN envoy Jamal Benomar told Inner City Press at the Security Council stakeout twice, than many in the Southern Movement are amenable to the National Dialogue and that by implication al-Beidh is an extreme. But is advocacy sanctionable? Should it be?


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