An apparent US drone strike in Yemen's Marib province—the fourth reported in the last 10 days—killed four purported al-Qaeda militants Aug. 6. The strikes come as the Yemeni government is "deeply disappointed" in the US decision to evacuate embassy staff, an official said. "It plays into the hands of al-Qaeda," the official warned. (LAT, Aug. 6) On the same day as the new drone strike, tribesmen in Marib shot down an army helicopter, killing eight soldiers, during a clash as workers attempted to repair a main oil pipeline blown up by saboteurs. (AFP, Aug. 6) Fighting has also returned to the capital, with least one killed in clashes between soldiers and troops of the ostensibly disbanded Republican Guard, who were holding a protest in central Sanaa. (BBC News, Aug. 2)
OK, here's one to file under "all too telling irony." Egyptian authorities have banned Yemeni rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman from entering the country for "security reasons." Karman was held at Cairo airport on arrival and sent back to Yemen. The first Arab woman to win the Nobel peace prize had voiced support for loyalists of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and protested his ouster by the military. Karman was due to make an appearance at a Cairo sit-in by Morsi supporters. The Anti-Coup Alliance said Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, also a Nobel laureate, "is to be held responsible for banning activists and Nobel Prize winners from entering Egypt." (AFP, Aug. 4)
US President Barack Obama delivered a speech May 23 on US counterterrorism policy and efforts, outlining plans to restrict the use of unmanned drone strikes and to renew efforts to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. In Obama's first major speech on counterterrorism since his re-election, he said: "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue, but this war, like all wars, must end. That's what history advises. That's what our democracy demands." But rather than introduce new sweeping policies, Obama's speech reaffirmed his national security priorities.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on April 24 called for the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to be repealed. "I'm convinced that if we do not repeal this authorization to use force that I voted against in 2001, we are going to see this state of perpetual war forever," she told Current TV. Congress approved the AUMF just days after the 9-11 attacks, giving the president authority to wage war "against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks." Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against it, calling it a "blank check" for war. The Obama administration has used the AUMF as a legal justification for its targeted drone strike program in Pakistan and Yemen. "The use of drones in many instances creates more hatred, more anger, more hostility toward our country," Lee added, citing the recent congressional testimony of a young Yemeni activist. (Raw Story, April 24)
Approximately 250 Yemeni demonstrators gathered April 1 in front of the US Embassy in Sanna to demand the release of Yemeni detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. According to media sources, 90 out the 166 remaining Guantánamo detainees are Yemeni, and several have been detained for more than a decade. Protesters reportedly decried conditions at the prison, citing reports of inhumane treatment, water deprivation and forced feeding. Protesters also held up photos of their detained relatives and denounced treatment allegedly leading to several suicides, including that of Salah Al-Salami, who committed suicide while in detention in 2006. The protest prompted dispatch of the Yemeni military. Among the Yemeni detainees is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of bombing the USS Cole while it was in port in Yemen in October 2000.
Human rights lawyers on March 26 filed an emergency motion (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that guards at Guantánamo Bay have denied drinking water and sufficient clothing to a Yemeni prisoner. The motion was filed only a day before a fact-finding visit to the US detention center in Cuba by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the lawyers contend that such treatment is being used to undermine an ongoing hunger strike by Musa'ab Omar al-Madhwani and 30 additional inmates.
The media are suddenly abuzz with reports that the CIA has been operating a secret airbase for unmanned drones in Saudi Arabia for the past two years, from which it has launched numerous strikes on purported militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in neighboring Yemen—including those that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US citizens who had never been charged with any crimes by the US government. The relevation follows the leaking to NBC this week of a confidential Justice Department memo finding that the US can order the killing of its own citizens if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaeda or "an associated force"—even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the US.
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson announced (PDF) on Jan. 24 that he will begin investigating the legality of the use of drone strikes. Emmerson said that after asking the US to allow an independent investigation of its use of targeted killings last year, there is still no consensus among the international community as to the legality of the conduct. He stated an investigation by the UN was necessary in order to establish clear international guidelines on the use of this and other emerging technology: