News agencies and websites have reported that the Yemeni government, as well as its regional and international partners, have agreed to substitute what have been termed “guarantees" — as stipulated by the Gulf initiative which was modified by the executive mechanism [of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — with a "national reconciliation" bill. This is a common procedure in many countries that transition from political conflicts and civil wars to a national consensus. This kind of reconciliation bill has become known as "transitional justice."
Here, it is worth noting that Yemeni citizens are probably not as concerned with what name the legislation is given — whether it be "guarantees" or "reconciliation” — as much as with its content and results. If this legislation allows the killers and criminals of the old regime to remain at large and free to plunder and control people’s lives and social institutions without restriction or accountability, then it would make no difference what it’s called. As long as the impacted people continue to pay the price for the actions of the former regime without compensation, and as long as those responsible for the damage are not apprehended, then the choice of language is inconsequential.
It is necessary to discuss a few observations:
1. It should be noted that the demand for reconciliation was made after the 1994 war. The Yemeni Socialist Party — and the Coordination Council parties later — highlighted the importance of a comprehensive national reconciliation that would improve prospects for the coexistence and fair competition between different political forces. But those who won the war were blinded by the euphoria of victory, prompting them to act with further arrogance and superiority. They acted this way not only toward those who had lost, but toward the Yemeni people as a whole, including those who had fought at their side.
2. Reconciliation is a process that accompanies any transitional period of war or national conflict. Therefore, it should seek to eradicate the reasons behind the wars and conflicts, as well as their destructive consequences. They should not serve only to pardon criminals and perpetrators.
3. The national reconciliation being discussed today must involve all Yemenis in the north, south, east and west. It should take into account every stage of the various conflicts in Yemen since the early 1960s, and not only the events related to the recent youth revolution and the accompanying crimes which resulted in human and material losses.
While we do think it is necessary to look into the various requirements and obligations that the national reconciliation legislation should include, this not to imply that we are taking a position against the reconciliation. We must establish the conditions that would render the reconciliation viable and effective both today and in the future. These conditions will ensure that the doors to conflicts, sedition and war will remain closed, and that those affected by the various conflicts and wars be compensated. The most important conditions for achieving the reconciliation are the following:
1. The reconciliation should be comprehensive. It should address all phases of the previous political struggles in both parts of Yemen before the year 1990 [the Yemen Arab Republic in the north and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south]. The reconciliation should also tackle the struggles that took place after 1990, including the 1994 civil war and the wars of Sa’dah. It should also take into account the political considerations, as well as the physical and moral ramifications of Yemen’s contemporary history. Therefore, it is necessary to highlight the results of the political struggles that took place in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and after the year 2000.
2. The reconciliation should include reparations, or financial and moral compensation for those affected by the different stages of political conflicts in Yemen’s south and north. The reparations should be commensurate with the amount of damage they suffered as a result of those wars, conflicts and political actions.
3. A successful reconciliation must be approved by all parties affected by the conflict. The adopted legislation should make the victims feel that their rights have been preserved. Those victims should also feel that they are not merely recipients of the policy of reconciliation, but are rather interacting with and taking part in it.
4. The reconciliation should not deny citizens who do not approve of it the right to oppose its procedures and results.
5. The reconciliation should not deny society the right to reclaim its stolen property. Amnesty for the perpetrators should not apply to issues like corruption, looting of public money and plundering of national wealth — including money, resources, facilities, land and the property of individuals, if these assets can be reclaimed and those affected can be compensated. Thus, it would be wise to leave these issues to the criminal courts already in place, or to the one that will be instituted.
6. Any amnesty for anyone who has committed crimes or offenses can only be granted to those who leave politics and abandon all posts they have held. Amnesty should not be given to those who choose to return to the political scene. Victims should be entitled to the power of the judiciary to hold the perpetrators accountable, should they decide to return to political life or take on public or executive positions.
* Threats made to members and officers of the Republican Guard and the Central Security Organization, as well as the arrest of some of these leaders and individuals by relatives of the “honorable” president demonstrate the panic of the remnants of President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s regime and its members who have not yet learned their lessons. These actions prove that they do not quite understand what is needed to transition into the future, and that they are determined to remain in the past against the will of the people.
* Dr. Abdel-Rahman Al-Baydani, Vice President of the former Yemen Arab Republic and a well-known national figure, has died. Throughout his life, he took differing political and ideological stances, addressed by several books and articles reflecting his positions on Yemeni and Arab issues. May God bestow his mercy on the deceased and grant his family patience and solace.
* Imam Al-Shafi’i [Muslim jurist], may God bestow his mercy on him, once said (The following is a rough interpretation):
They said I remained silent after being antagonized;
I told them: Responding could be the key to the door of evil.
Silence over comments by an ignorant or stupid person is an honor,
as it may safeguard the honor and ease the situation.
Do you not see that lions fear in silence?
And that barking dogs never bite?