Demands to recover assets looted by Saleh

On the sidelines of the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council, the Arab Human Rights Committee organised a seminar on the recovery of assets. A number of diplomats, academicians and United Nations experts spoke at the seminar.

Regarding the looted Yemeni funds, Dr. Wissam Abubakar Basindwah, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Arab Initiative for Education and Development, stated that a report issued by the Sanctions Committee established by the UN Security Council confirmed that $488 million have been frozen. These funds were deposited in 20 states under the names of the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son. This Commission has been formed under the UN Security Council Resolution 2140. She confirmed that the Committee has exposed that Saleh has been using multiple passports for the smuggling of funds.

She added that the size of corruption and assets smuggled from Yemen is something between $32 billion and $60bn, while the majority of the Yemeni people are living below poverty line. She pointed out that there is a direct relationship between the smuggling of money from a country and the enjoyment of human rights by its people, in particular socio-economic rights. She indicated that the smuggling of these funds has resulted in the impoverishment of the Yemeni people. Ali Abdullah Saleh is still using the funds of the Yemeni people as if it is his own money. He transferred these funds to his personal accounts instead of using them for the development of the country.

Basindwa added that the difference between Yemen and other Arab states from which money was smuggled is that a committee was established by the UN Security Council to trace funds smuggled from Yemen. Moreover, the person accused of corruption has not left Yemen. He is still inside the country and trying to come to power again through his alliance with the Houthis. He is using funds he looted to destroy Yemen and supply arms to the coup militias.

She called upon the international community to co-operate with Yemen in recovering its looted assets and to deal seriously with the decisions of the Sanctions Committee.

During the seminar, the Ambassador of Egypt to the United Nations, Amro Ramadhan, requested states to which these funds were smuggled into to exert more efforts in recovering these fortunes and giving them back to the people. He also demanded that states receiving these assets should fight corruption and enhance transparency so as to promote socio-economic rights for their people.

The UN expert on democracy, Alfred De Zaias, encouraged civil society organisations to continue their efforts and activities to shed light on the files of looted funds from their countries and to demand governments they elected to do more in this respect.

Among parallel activities organised by civil society organisations on the margins of the Human Rights General Assembly meetings, the Arab Committee for Human Rights hosted a seminar under the title "Stolen Assets and Human Rights". The seminar witnessed participation from speakers from Arab Spring countries, and from Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. Speakers tackled the negative effects of not recovering these funds, which were gained through illicit sources, to their original countries and the impact of this on human rights as this issue has consequences on the development process.

The Yemeni paper, presented by Dr. Wissam Basindwah, talked about the massive size of assets referred to in the report of the Panel of Experts under the Sanctions Committee for Yemen. The report talks about assets worth of up to $60 billion controlled by the former president while large segments of the Yemeni people are living below the poverty line in a country that permanently occupies the bottom list in development indicators at the global level.

Basindwa also explained the different means used by Saleh to collect $2 billion every year for about 20 years through dubious deals in addition to abusing power and using state institutions to serve his own purposes. The paper concluded by stressing that all countries have to react to the requests made by the Sanctions Committee and they shall provide all information requested as well as working to freeze all assets despite the difficulties associated with the process. She stated that these funds are the object of sophisticated money laundering operations and different names are used to cover up these operations.

In the same context, the Libyan speaker Adel Alakhdar, requested states to co-operate in recovering the funds of the Libyan people as needs in the country are dire.

From his side, the UN expert on democracy, Alfred De Zaias, invited civil society organisations to continue lobbying with states to respond to the multiple demands and to transparently disclose these assets and provide necessary support to relevant authorities.

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