Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Saleh should be held to account | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in Sanaa on May 21, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

A UN probe has stated that former president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh amassed a fortune of up to 60 billion US dollars during his time in power. It is an unimaginable number, even when judged by the standard of wealthy nations. His actual wealth is probably less than a quarter of this amount, but that is still a huge sum for the president of such a poor country. It seems he is even wealthier than the richest people in the world.

Whether his fortune amounts to one billion or 60 billion dollars, what he is doing today to sabotage the political process in Yemen should result in the freezing of his assets as authorized by the UN Security Council in 2014.

Because of Saleh’s continuous defiance of UN resolutions, his success in hindering the transitional government as well as his alliance with rebels who have conquered Sana’a, all parties are expected to seek the formation of a committee to investigate his wealth and return it to the Yemeni government. This will restrain his financial capabilities and his influence inside and outside Yemen.

Saleh has been looting the Yemeni people for over 30 years. He wants to deprive them of the possibility of overcoming his oppression and starting a new era. This is why they stay silent about him and his money; they forgave him and do not demand that he be held accountable. Yemenis have treated their isolated former president with a rare sense of decency when he left the country defeated and sought treatment in Saudi hospitals.

Yemeni political forces granted him immunity from being held accountable for what he did over the past three decades. They wanted to forgive him, leave the past behind, avoid feuds and build a new Yemen for everyone. However, recent events have revealed that Saleh is corrupt and a key player in the sabotage of the new regime, with the help of the Houthi rebels. The situation in Yemen has become very serious. The government was forced to move to a temporary capital, while Saleh’s supporters and the Houthis keep on threatening to divide the country and ignite a civil war. After all this, international organizations are now expected to re-open the file of the overthrown president. He should be subject to prosecution and the confiscation of his fortune, and not just asset freezes, in accordance with the Security Council resolution: All those cooperating with him should also be put on trial.