가장 심각한 인권침해, ‘알-카에다’아닌 ‘정부군과 무장반군 충돌’에서 발생
지난해 크리스마스에 발생한 미국 디트로이트행 여객기 테러 기도 사건 용의자가 나이지리아 출신이지만 예멘에서 훈련을 받았다는 보도가 나오면서 예멘 정부는 알-카에다 용의자 제거에 더욱 박차를 가할 것으로 보인다.
국제앰네스티는 알-카에다에 대한 예멘 정부의 고압적인 대응을 두고 ‘예멘을 위험에 가두는 인권 하강 악순환(downward spiral)을 유발할 것’이라고 경고했다.
최근 십 년간 알-카에다의 공격은 산발적으로 발생했으며, 이와 관련 있는 것으로 보이는 그룹들 또한 드물게 생겼다. 사실 가장 심각한 인권 침해는 알-카에다에 의해서라기 보다는, 정부군과 무장 반군 세력 사이의 충돌에서 발생한다. 예멘 북부 지역의 시아파 반군인 자이디(Zaidi Shi’a)와 남부의 매우 평화적인 분리주의자들은 모두 알- 카에다와 전혀 연관이 없는 것으로 보고됐다.
국제앰네스티 중동∙북아프리카국 말콤 스마트(Malcolm Smart) 국장은 “알-카에다 용의자 일제 단속에 대한 국제사회의 요구가 예멘 정부에게는 인권에 대한 고려 없이 모든 반대를 박살낼 수 있게 하는 ‘승인 절차’로 해석될까 두렵다”라고 말했다.
한편, 오는 27일(수요일)에는 예멘과 대테러 대책에 관한 국제 회의가 런던에서 열릴 예정이다.
Rights at risk in Yemen amid increased security crackdown
Amnesty International on Tuesday warned that the government’s heavy-handed response to the threat posed by al-Qa’ida puts Yemen at risk of being locked in a downward spiral on human rights.
In its latest briefing paper on Yemen, published ahead of Wednesday’s international high level meeting in London, Amnesty International highlights an increase in human rights violations against those who criticize or oppose the government.
“The fear is that international demands for a crackdown on suspected supporters of al-Qa’ida will be interpreted by the government as a green light to crush all opposition with no consideration for human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.
The government appears to have further intensified its new sweep against al-Qa’ida suspects following reports that a Nigerian national alleged to have tried to blow up a plane over Detroit last December had received training in Yemen.
Security forces claim to have killed and captured a number of leaders and activists of the group. Family members of such suspects have also been killed by government forces.
Attacks by al-Qa’ida, and groups apparently linked to it, have occurred sporadically throughout the last decade.
But most human rights abuses have taken place during conflict between government forces and armed rebels from the Zaidi Shi’a minority in the north and a strengthening, largely peaceful separatist movement in the south, both reportedly unconnected to al-Qa’ida.
“The government has resorted to increasingly repressive methods to counter this opposition, including waves of arrests, incommunicado detention and unlawful killings,” said Malcolm Smart.
“Counter-terrorism is no excuse to sideline human rights. Whilst the government has a duty to protect people and hold to account those engaged in terrorism it must abide by its obligations under international law.”
In Sa’da, in the north of the country, the long running conflict between government forces and the Huthis, armed fighters belonging to the Zaidi Shi’a minority, resumed with new intensity last August and has been marked by serious abuses on both sides.
Both sides are alleged to have killed civilians and according to the UN’s refugee agency, so far more than the 200,000 people have been forcibly displaced.
The government has sealed off the area, preventing independent reporting of the conflict, and aid agencies have faced continuing problems as they seek humanitarian access to those at risk
Civilians have also been put at risk, and some possibly killed, by Saudi Arabian security forces that have carried out attacks against rebels in Yemen’s northern border region. These attacks lacked any safeguards for the protection of civilians.
In Aden and other cities and towns in the south the government has faced growing protests from local people over the government’s failure to address discrimination.
The government’s response to these protests has been heavy-handed, with unarmed demonstrators being shot in the streets and those leading local demands arrested and detained. Since the protests began in 2007, the security forces have arrested and detained, in many cases arbitrarily, thousands of demonstrators and bystanders.
Independent media in Yemen has also come under sustained attack in connection with the unrest in the south of the country. The authorities have stormed newspaper offices, blocked distribution of newspapers and arrested journalists critical of the government.