Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Yemeni authorities announced that they intend to enact a law criminalizing any action that “harms the national unity” of the country. The announcement comes amid escalating developments in the south of the country that began sometime ago. These developments escalated lately together with activities by the public, known as the “Peaceful Southern Movement.”
Meanwhile, the opposition “Joint Meeting” Parties announced their rejection of such a bill.
Official Yemeni sources said that the Legal Affairs Ministry is currently preparing a draft law to criminalize any “actions intended to harm the national constants and undermine the homeland’s security and stability.” The draft law also calls for “taking all legal measures to bring to account and punish those who cause seditions in the country.”
For their part, the Joint Meeting Parties, the main opposition bloc in the country, said they are against any law or measures that “restrict freedoms and rights, which are guaranteed in the constitution, under any nomenclature.”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Muhammad al-Mansur, official spokesman for the “Joint Meeting”, said: “The authorities’ measures to set up special courts or enact laws indicate that there is a crisis. These measures do not resolve the crisis. Rather, they confirm the fact that the government and the ruling General People’s Congress abuse the authority and the parliamentary majority.”
He said that enacting new laws and setting up emergency and special courts will not resolve the problems. He added: “Yemeni unity can be preserved and protected only by respecting the constitution, law, and human rights.”
Al-Mansur said: “When the authorities take such measures, they give the impression that the problem lies in the legal texts and the existing institutions.”
However, he pointed out that the opposition does not believe that the problem lies in the texts or institutions. He said: “In fact, the problem lies in the attempt to use these texts and institutions in favor of the authority and the ruling party in order to serve their deadlocked policies.”
Meanwhile, MP Dr Nasir al-Khabaji, one of the leaders of the “Peaceful Southern Movement”, who is pursued by the security agencies, ridiculed official charges that he and a number of his colleagues, southern MPs, incite to violence. These charges confirm the authorities’ moves to withdraw their parliamentary immunity.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Khabaji said this is not the first time a threat to lift the immunity is made, nor will it be the last time.
He added: “The threat to lift the immunity is an offence to them and to the House of Representatives, which is supposed to protect us. The leadership of the state does not respect this immunity. The evidence of this fact is that we have an MP in custody on orders from the minister of justice.”
Al-Khabaji denied that he or any of his colleagues are involved in, or inciting to, acts of violence. He said: “We reject these charges. We have defined our option. Our option is independence, and we will not back down on it.”
Earlier, the 26September Newspaper, mouthpiece of the Yemeni Defense Ministry, quoted private sources as saying that the so-called acts of rioting and subversion, which are carried out through incitement by some members of the House of Representatives, are being monitored. This was a reference to three southern MPs who have been boycotting the House of Representatives meetings for some time now. They are: Salah al-Shanfarah, Dr Nasir al-Khabaji, and Muhsin Ba sarrah.
These sources said that the public prosecution office and the ministry of justice will soon ask the House of Representatives to lift the parliamentary immunity of these MPs. These three MPs are among the most prominent leaders of the “Peaceful Southern Movement” in the governorates of Lahij, Al-Dali, and Hadhramaut.