Pro-government army soldiers ride on the back of a truck in Fardhat Nahm area, which has recently been taken by the army from Houthi rebels around 60km (40 miles) from Yemen's capital Sanaa, February 20, 2016. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Yemeni media outlets have accused the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of complicity in the Al Houthi occupation of the country by continuing to maintain contact with the banned armed group.

Reports from the country have sharply criticised the OHCHR for ignoring UN Security Council resolutions 2140 and 2216 condemning the militia for its actions in the country and helping the Al Houthis through its office in Yemen. UN offices, they say, should maintain a safe distance from belligerent parties instead of maintaining close contact with them. A UN agency’s continuous contact with Al Houthis goes to reflect its biases and sympathies in a war that it is expected to play a neutral role in, the reports said.

Under international law, the Al Houthi militia is characterised as “an armed group seeking to achieve political, cultural and social objectives through the use of force and violence”. Yemeni reports say that contact with the group is therefore incompatible with the fundamental principles of human rights, the promotion and protection of which constitute one of the purposes of the United Nations in accordance with article 1 of its Charter.

The Yemeni Criminal Code (Act No. 13 of 1994) prohibits the establishment of armed groups and stipulates that it is a punishable offence to join such groups or provide them with any form of support or assistance. Yemenis say that this law applies to the Al Houthi group as it applied to terror groups like Al Qaida.

The mandate to engage with all parties of a conflict is that of the International Committee of the Red Cross, say Yemenis. States do not permit any diplomatic mission or United Nations agency or office to coordinate, collaborate or hold public meetings with illegal armed groups established for any reason and regard such activities as blatant interference, violation of their national sovereignty and infringement of their national laws and legislation.

The reports single out George Abu Al Zulof, the representative of the High Commissioner, for what they said was a breach of conventions by “showing eagerness to cooperate with the Al Houthi forces in their self-styled capacity as the official authority in Yemen”. On his return to Sana’a in 2015, he announced that he was cooperating with the Al Houthi and Saleh militias through scheduled meetings with Al Houthi leaders, their supporters or persons appointed by the Al Houthi militias to run official departments. Yemeni reports said that the move was taken in disregard of the declaration by the President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi designating the capital, Sana’a, and all the governmental institutions therein as militia-occupied areas and the Presidential Decree stipulating that any edicts issued since September 2014 were to be considered null and void and as not being legally binding.

His reported meeting with the so-called “Acting Prime Minister” Talal Aqlan in Sana’a, said the report, amounts to the legitimisation of a rebellion by an international civil servant, setting a dangerous precedent.