On Friday, February 5, the US State Department announced its intention to revoke the last-minute Trump Administration designation of the Houthis in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The designation was broadly opposed by humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations because it would further exacerbate the dire conditions of millions of Yemenis. It would deepen the humanitarian crisis and further stall any peace process. C&SN’s statement regarding the Trump Administration’s action is here.
This past Friday, the Biden Administration announced its plans to reverse that decision. The Charity & Security Network applauds this decision. We are particularly encouraged by the State Department’s recognition of the humanitarian consequences of the prior action. In its statement, the State Department said “Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the official said.
This recognition points to problems that C&SN and our colleagues in the humanitarian, peacebuilding and human rights communities have been raising for years. The broad and vague web of US counterterrorism laws and policies, and frequently reflexive use of sanctions, too often limits or halts critical programs that help millions of human beings in need with no connection to hostilities or criminal activity. Despite the broad General Licenses issued by the Treasury Department to alleviate the effects of this designation, under current law NGOs could still be open to criminal prosecution if they continue programs in Yemen, as it is impossible to entirely avoid contact with Houthis, who control most of the territory in the country.
Paul Carroll, Director of the Charity & Security Network said that “It is our hope that this action by the Biden Administration is a signal of a desire to revisit how sanctions are used, the implications and real-world consequences they have, and the broad application of counterterrorism laws and policies in their full context.”