Judge Hamoud al-Hitar praised:The Dialogue Committee is known internationally [Archives:2004/799/Community]

December 16 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

It was announced this week that the head of Yemen's Dialogue Committee Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar has been invited to travel to Paris.
Hitar, who has been the chairman of the Dialogue Committee since it was established in the fall of 2002, said that the French government has asked him to share information on the committee's method of working with detained militants.
“France has shown interest in fighting terrorism through dialogue,” Al-Hitar told the Yemen Times. “Their interest in our method asserts the importance of using dialogue, which shows that using dialogue is one of the strongest ways to fight terrorism.”
A number of countries are showing interest in the approach being used by the Dialogue Committee in Yemen. Al-Hitar said that he is being contacted by governments from different parts of the world to inquire about the committee's practices. Al-Hitar traveled to Great Britain last February and May to share his experience holding dialogue with suspects of radical Islamic groups. He was also invited last spring to attend the conference of Higher Council for Islamic Affairs in Cairo.
“It is our objective while visiting France or other countries to share our methods, results and benefits of using dialogue,” Al-Hitar said.
The Dialogue Committee aims at steering extremists away from violence and accepting tolerance and people living together in peace. A militant is released if persuaded after going through a number of sessions of dialogue.
Last month, the Yemeni government released 113 detainees allegedly being a part of the Al-Qaeda international terrorist network, including at least five who were accused of being involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
Fifteen suspects convicted last August of being involved in the attack on the USS Cole at the port of Aden, which killed 17 US sailors, were not released. In the same month, five militants were found guilty of participating in the bombing of the French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen in 2002 that killed one crew member and unloaded 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Aden.
Since the Dialogue Committee was established two years ago, 346 suspects have been released.
Around 175 followers of the Believing Youth, a renegade organization once founded by radical cleric Hussein Al-Houthi who was killed last September after three months of fighting between his followers and government forces in north Yemen, are expected to be released in the near future. Al-Hitar said that the members of the organization have been persuaded to reject violence, but the Yemeni government is still following up on investigations to guarantee no criminal acts have been committed. It has been reported that up to 350 members of the Believing Youth are being detained.
“Al-Hitar is a brave man to carry out dialogue with suspects, someone we definitely respect,” said a foreign diplomat based in Yemen. “It seems that the process has some success.”
Government security monitors those that have been released, and the Dialogue Committee carries out follow-up sessions once detainees have been freed. The committee is also putting together a program that will help those released reintegrate into society. The assistance program will offer help in finding jobs and adjusting to be reintegrated into society.
The Dialogue Committee's unique method of working with suspects believed to be sympathetic to Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups has been operating at the same time the government has been increasing security nationwide. Since the government joined the United States to fight terror soon after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, security forces have rounded up hundreds of terrorist suspects, including key members of Al-Qaeda.