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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05SANAA144
2005-01-25 11:36:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Sanaa
Cable title:  

RECENT JUDICIAL RESHUFFLE: REFORM OR VANDETTA

Tags:   PGOV  KMPI  KMCA  KCOR  YM  KHUM  DOMESTIC  POLITICS 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 000144 

SIPDIS

STATE PLEASE PASS TO MCC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/19/2015
TAGS: PGOV KMPI KMCA KCOR YM KHUM DOMESTIC POLITICS
SUBJECT: RECENT JUDICIAL RESHUFFLE: REFORM OR VANDETTA

REF: SANAA 2421

Classified By: DCM Nabeel Khoury for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 000144

SIPDIS

STATE PLEASE PASS TO MCC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/19/2015
TAGS: PGOV KMPI KMCA KCOR YM KHUM DOMESTIC POLITICS
SUBJECT: RECENT JUDICIAL RESHUFFLE: REFORM OR VANDETTA

REF: SANAA 2421

Classified By: DCM Nabeel Khoury for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (U) Summary. Most legal experts view a recent reshuffle
of the Yemeni judiciary by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC)
more as a vendetta against supporters of rebel cleric Hussein
al-Houthi (reftel) than as a serious effort to reform Yemen's
weak judiciary. What is required, they note, is a political
will at the highest levels to undertake a serious overhaul of
the system rather than just a reshuffling of some individuals
in it. End Summary.


2. (U) Citing the need to combat corruption, the ROYG
announced a reshuffle of the judiciary, which began on 12/22
with the dismissal of 22 judges for corruption, designation
of eight judges for investigation of &alleged violations
committed in the course of their work,8 and the forced
retirement of 108 judges with full benefits.

--------------
The Numbers
--------------


3. (U) The rearranging of the judiciary is actually more
widespread than the official announcement. Papers reported
that at the national level 25 new judges were appointed to
the Supreme Court, and 2 judges were promoted to the SJC
while 159 appellate judges exchanged posts. District level
courts saw the appointment of 68 chief and 172 associate
judges.


4. (U) At the Attorney General's (AG) level, 52 judges were
assigned to the AG,s office, 23 heads of public prosecutions
124 appellate prosecutors and 187 general prosecutors were
also shuffled. (Note: In Yemen, it is not uncommon for the
Prosecutor's/Attorney General's office and the judiciary to
act interchangeably. End Note).

--------------
You can blame it on Sa'da (kind of()
--------------


5. (C) Most in Yemen judicial circles including a former
minister, two UNDP experts and some prominent defense
attorneys, view the reshuffle as ¬hing new.8
Interlocutors, including a prominent former Minister of
Justice and member of the Upper Shura Council, report that

plans for conducting judicial reform had been on Saleh,s
desk for a long time and that reshuffles occurred in the past
without any effect. (Note. This is the third judicial
reshuffle Yemen has undergone since 1997. In 2003 the SJC
fired 13 judges. In 2002 it dismissed 35 judges and
prosecutors. Both times the ROYG cited corruption as the
primary cause. End Note).


6. (C) Most legal actors advise that the forced retirement
was actually a political move aimed primarily at Zaidi-Shiite
judges, who until the reshuffle essentially formed the
backbone of the judiciary. This, they point out, is Saleh,s
way of castigating those Zaidi blocs (and rewarding those
Sunni-Shafi' blocks) he feels were not loyal enough to him
during the Sa'da rebellion. (Reftel). The reshuffle
effectively diminished the Zaidi majority in the judiciary
from 65% to 40% of total judges. Several interlocutors
anticipate that once Saleh feels more secure in the balance
of the power structure there would be a return of several of
the 108 judges to the bench and/or AG,s office in some
fashion.


7. (C) Several also note that, contrary to widespread
sentiment, corruption is not the primary problem of the
judiciary. Instead, they note the judiciary needs, more than
anything, to be independent of the executive branch. They
also cite the need for a stronger and more credentialed
judiciary to arbitrate justice, a higher transparency in the
system, and the need for a more efficient system to assure
rule of law.

-------------- --------------
Where there is a (political) will there is a way...
-------------- --------------


8. (C) The recent reshuffle also came on the heels of the
Minister of Justice, Dr. Adnan Omar al-Jafri (MOJ) announcing
to an American Bar Association (ABA) delegation, in Yemen to
assess the need for reform in Yemen,s judicial system, that
the MOJ is launching a ten-year reform effort aimed at
strengthening Yemen,s judiciary. Interlocutors remain
skeptical of any true change from the either the reshuffle or
the MOJ,s 10 year plan. Although the judiciary itself seems
prepared for a change, the political will &is not there,8
said a former minister and Shura Council member. The power
base, which includes several high-ranking ministers and
executive branch officials, they argue, is too entrenched and
conservative to effectuate any true independence from the
executive branch. Others note that Saleh himself has lost
interest in the judiciary and would need to re-engage in
order to refocus national and international efforts for
judicial reform.


9. (C) Several insiders also point out that although an
advocate for change, Jaffri is currently embroiled in a
struggle over his role and reform agenda with several
conservative groups within the judiciary and Ministry of
Justice who are interested in keeping the status quo. Others
critique that he is not close enough to Saleh to effectuate a
change.


10. (C) A consensus in judiciary circles note that true
political will and reform can be created by strengthening the
judiciary in technical and political ways, a fostering of
political will among several groups within the executive
branch, and partnership to help all understand the benefits
of a strong and independent judiciary. Several also urged
the need for &practical proposals, 8 such as criteria
building in legal education, to foster partnership and
develop the judiciary. This, most of them urge, would take
time but was possible.


11. (C) Comment: The view that the reshuffle is motivated by
last summer's Sa'da fighting is widespread in the Yemeni
legal community. If true, then we are witnessing executive
tampering at its height. If Sa'da is the motivation for the
reshuffle, then the ROYG is likely also realigning the
judiciary in preparation for widespread prosecutions of Sa'da
dissidents in the upcoming year.


12. (C) Comment Continued: Although several interlocutors are
skeptical of the reshuffle in itself, discussions reveal that
judicial reform, if long-term and multifaceted, is possible.
Finally, no matter what the motivation of the executive
branch, the reshuffling is likely to have some impact on
corruption and spark more efforts for judicial change at
least within the Yemeni bar. All are resigned, however, to
the fact that serious reform is a long term prospect in
Yemen. End Comment.
KRAJESKI