The Consultative Council Proposes a Package Solution: Measures to Control Blood Feuds [Archives:1997/48/Law & Diplomacy]

December 1 1997

President Ali Abdullah Saleh had on June 3rd, 1997 asked the advice of the Consultative Council concerning the crucial issue of blood feuds. Vendettas and blood feuds have become major obstacles blocking the progress, development, and building of the modern institutions of this country. Following the last parliamentary elections and the development of democracy in Yemen, the time is now ripe for more comprehensive reforms. Administrative and financial reforms should be accompanied by social reforms such as combating the destructive phenomenon of blood feuds. The consultative council held extensive discussions, and several suggestions were made by the more experienced members in this field. The members also discussed the President’s letter on this matter. In the last paragraphs of his letter, the President asked the Consultative Council to form special investigative committees to go to areas where blood feuds are more prevalent. The President also suggested that the first step to tackle this issue should be to call for a general, state-sponsored reconciliation among the feuding tribes. A public awareness campaign will also be carried out as well as extensive meetings with tribal sheikhs, elders, and prominent figures in society. After much debate and comprehensive reviewing of several sociological studies, the following causes for the prevalence of blood feuds were specified.
1- Firearms are readily available throughout society. There are even special markets for various kinds of weapons near Sanaa and other major cities. 2- Legal cases related to blood feuds take a long time to be reviewed by courts. The security apparatus is not usually strong enough to execute the court rulings. This often frustrates blood claimants, driving them to avenging themselves and taking the law into their own hands. 3- The religious deterrent is usually not strong enough among the people who execute revenge murders. They often avenge themselves by killing the best of their antagonist’s family. 4- The rather weak adherence to the traditional tribal and local rules has led to many taking revenge before a court ruling is issued regarding their particular case. 5- Some murderers often seek the protection of other tribes in what is called ‘rubaa’ or fraternizing. 6- Ferocious land disputes among the tribes have a lot to do with causing and perpetuating blood feuds. 7- The state often fails to catch the culprit or oblige his tribe to surrender him. 8- Society in general does not condemn willful killing nor does it reject revenge killings. 9- Oblivious to the independence of the judicial system, some prominent figures in society often interfere with and try to influence the outcome of court cases. 10- The prevalence of bribery and corruption among the judiciary influence their court decisions to the advantage of the aggressor. 11- Judges who issue rulings contrary to the Islamic Sharia and the enacted laws often go unpunished. 12- The distinction between the independence of the judiciary and the supervising and inspecting of its activities has become quite blurred. After extensively discussing and studying the causes of blood feuds, members of the Consultative Council have issued a number of suggestions and possible solutions. There is now a loud and distinct call for strengthening the central authority and activating the state’s establishments. The suggested solutions are as follows: 1- A republican decree is to be issued, declaring a general and comprehensive reconciliation among all feuding tribes and individuals. 2- The republican decree is to come into effect on the date of its issuance. Any act of vengeance after that will be considered a crime against the state and the tribe. 3- The republican decree is to impose a total ban on ‘rubaa’ or fraternizing so that it would not block the enactment of, and adherence to the decree. 4- Another republican decree is to be issued, forming a supreme national committee to address and resolve blood feud problems. The committee is to consist of following members: – three members of the Consultative Council; – the Ministers of Justice, Local Administration, the Interior, and Finance; – two members of the parliament’s presidium; – four impartial and highly experienced judges; – three prominent tribal leaders; and – two prominent socialites. The president of the committee will either be elected from among its members, or appointed by the President of the Republic. The republican decree is to specify the committee’s tasks and powers as follows. a- The supreme committee is to establish sub-committees in the governorates where there are pressing blood feud problems. Each sub-committee is to be headed by one of the supreme committee’s members and include the governor, two members of the Consultative Council, two MPs representing the governorate in parliament, representatives of the military, security and judiciary in the governorate, and several tribal and social figures experienced in blood feud issues. b- Each sub-committee is to extensively identify each and every blood feud case, pinpoint its causes, and suggest the possible solutions in accordance with local traditions and customs. These suggestions are to be submitted later to the supreme committee for endorsement. c- The supreme committee is to study each case submitted by the sub-committees, direct its solution, and allocate the necessary state financial resources to help resolve the problem. d- The supreme committee is to start its activities through its sub-committees by collecting the signatures of the feuding peoples. Anybody who refuses to sign the document of reconciliation is to be liable for detention. e- The supreme committee is to submit periodical reports to the President of the Republic regarding its accomplishments and problems, especially what is brought about by the sub-committees. The aim is to get the appropriate directives, instructions and support from the President. f- The supreme committee is to suggest the appropriate and necessary authorizations for implementing its directives and its sub-committees tasks. It also has the right, after starting its activities to ask for the appropriate sums of money to be able to solve blood feuds. g- The decisions of the supreme committee are to have the power of law, obliging all relevant organs to implement them. h- The supreme committee is to be totally neutral in dealing with each blood feud, and to wholly resolve it as one problem without any favoritism or discrimination. i- The supreme committee is to have the right to seek the help and person or persons who are well experienced in dealing with blood feuds. j- With the participation of the Ministry of Information, the supreme committee is to implement a special public awareness program to help inform people as to its tasks, goals and the harmful effects of blood feuds. k- Meetings are to be held in governorate centers to involve tribal leaders, prominent social figures, and officials in order to explain the tasks of the supreme committee and call for the cooperation of all concerned parties. l- The supreme committee is to follow-up the resolution of blood feuds by the judicial system and other relevant bodies such as the Ministries of Interior and Local Administration, etc. Reconciliation and amicable solutions are commanded by Islam. There are numerous citations from the Holy Quran and the Prophet’s sayings and traditions to indicate Islam’s preference for a peaceful means of resolving feuds.