For weeks protesters in Yemen have called for an end to president Saleh’s 33-year-long rule. In response, the president sent tanks onto the streets of Sanaa. Last week Saleh forces killed over 40 protesters. Tanks and troops were also sent to the southern city of Aden.
Until just a few weeks ago President Saleh was an appreciated Western ally in the war against al-Qaeda. Yemen allowed the United States to bomb an alleged terrorist training camp and was prepared to lie in public about Washington’s involvement. In return the country has received large amounts of military aid and training, mainly from the U.S., and just recently asked for more.
However small compared to American military support, the Dutch government lent a symbolic helping hand too over the past years, supplying several batches of spare parts for military vehicles, including engines. Between 2002-June 2010 some 3.7 million euro worth of Dutch military material was supplied to Yemen.
In 2010 Amnesty International strongly condemned Yemen for abandoning human rights in the name of security. While the Dutch government acknowledged the security concerns related to the military supplies, also in the context of the 2009 Operation Scorched Earth, it did not officially come back from the disputed decision to supply.
Last week Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal expressed his growing concernabout developments in Yemen. ‘I am horrified at the violence used against peaceful protesters in Sana’a today, which in some cases even resulted in death. I will certainly discuss the matter with my colleagues in Brussels. We must condemn this violence unequivocally. The continuing demonstrations show that the people of Yemen want rapid progress towards effective democracy based on the rule of law.’
Dutch citizens are now advised to leave Yemen.
(FS, 22 March 2011)