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An activist protests US drone strikes in Yemen outside the US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen April 29 [REUTERS]
"America’s actions are legal" claimed President Obama in a speech on drones earlier this year. It was 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.
But back in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, it appears the country’s civil society disagrees. Members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) - a US-supported initiative which will map out Yemen’s post-Arab Spring future - overwhelmingly voted to criminalise drone strikes in Yemen. The Yemeni people have spoken. Now Presidents Hadi and Obama must listen - for their own sake, as much as that of Yemen.
While it is clear that no leader may lawfully authorise another sovereign to slaughter his own people, the decision to criminalise drones strikes sends a clear warning message to Hadi - if the current practice is to continue, it may well lead to a criminal prosecution.
But it is not only the threat of a jail cell that should focus the Yemeni President’s mind. Through his unconditional consent to the use of drones in his country, President Hadi has already alienated many of his supporters, especially those, like him, from the south, which bear the brunt of the strikes.
Moreover, Hadi, like his US counterpart, is concerned about his legacy. As Yemen’s first post-revolutionary president, the coming few months will test Hadi’s commitment to a stable Yemen through the NDC.In a meeting this week with John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, Hadi stated that he hoped that the dialogue will lead "Yemen into security and stability". The members of the NDC are certainly working to achieve this end. Criminalising drone strikes is an essential step towards a stable Yemen.
It is also in the interest of the US to respect the NDC’s decision. Hypocrisy rankles. And hypocrisy is what Yemenis see when the US preaches democracy and funds democratic processes and ignores outcomes it doesn’t like. The US can’t just ditch those NDC decisions it doesn’t like.
Obama has argued that he is acting to safeguard America’s national security interests. Yet the truth of the matter is that drones are counter-productive. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, since its start, the US drones campaign in Yemen has killed a significant number of civilians includ
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