The Houthis' recent attempt to seize the financial assets of 1,223 public figures, including government ministers, political activists and those who oppose the militia, is not supported by Yemen's constitution, legal experts tell Al-Mashareq.
On December 26th, the Central Bank of Yemen in Sanaa, which is controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militia, issued a directive ordering banks to seize certain accounts as a "precautionary measure".
The listed account holders include President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a number of ministers in his government, political activists, opponents of the Houthis' coup and high and mid-level political party leaders.
The directive, delivered at the instruction of the Houthis' deputy interior minister, Abdul-Hakim al-Khaiwani, attempted to justify the move by claiming the accounts belonged to "traitors" loyal to Hadi's legitimate government.
A violation of Yemen's constitution
"It is impermissible to seize the money of any person or party without a court order," legal expert and counsel Abdel-Rahman Berman told Al-Mashareq.
"The Yemeni constitution gave special protection to personal property and made it impermissible to seize or confiscate it except pursuant to court orders," he said.
"The Houthi group is engaging in gangster-like actions -- theft, plunder and looting of people’s money," he added, noting that the "precautionary seizure" decree has no legal basis.
"The Houthis issued these decrees without legal basis," lawyer and human rights activist Faisal al-Majidi told Al-Mashareq.
Yemen's constitution "prohibits the establishment of extraordinary courts and prosecution departments", he explained.
"Now the situation is worse, because they dismissed all the state’s judges and appointed members of their militias to those posts instead, starting with the Higher Judicial Council and Public Prosecution to the Ministry of Justice," he said.
"The seizure decrees are political and do not provide for fair trials," he added, stressing the "illegitimacy of the current judicial system, which is installed by a militia that has no legitimacy".
Al-Majidi described the Houthis' seizure of the bank accounts of their opponents as "thuggery and usurpation of private funds".
A series of repressive measures
The Central Bank of Yemen in Aden, controlled by the legitimate government, directed Yemeni banks to disregard the Houthis’ decree of December 26th.
In a separate directive, the Houthis asked all banks to disclose the account balances and deposits of dozens of General People’s Congress (GPC) party leaders and relatives of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The militia issued a January 2nd request for information on the accounts and balances of GPC leaders and companies they own, following Saleh's December 2nd call for a popular uprising against the Houthis.
"This action comes as part of a series of repressive measures," journalist Abdul-Wali al-Muthabi told Al-Mashareq.
"These gangs arose outside the law and do not recognize the term, so all of their activities are outside the law, and they continue to commit their crimes in full view of the world," he said.
"We are not surprised by this action," he added, noting that the militia recently raided a number of Sanaa banks, currency exchange offices and money transfer companies and confiscated large sums of cash of various currencies.