Yemeni conflicts. When tribal custom compensates state courts

Yemeni conflicts. When tribal custom compensates state courts

Residents of Hajar village in the province of Al-Dale (southern Sana'a) gathered to witness the last moments in the life of Nabil, who was closed eyes and half-naked, and he asks them to give him time to give his well  to his children, after which one of them read the sentence "Retribution and cleansing of the guilt of homicide".

Nabil killed his cousin Saddam, he was taken handcuffed to the scene, and in plain sight, Saddam's younger brother took his Kalashnikov weapon, and Nabil al-Nar was shot to death, and everyone immediately shouted, "Let bygones be pardoned."

A tribal elder raised his voice, praising the family of the murderer and the deceased--who attended the death scene--considering that they "did not allow Satan to differentiate between the family, accept the verdict, and no family bore blood to the other, by religion and the tribe's custom".

Better than the law

The incident defused tensions between the two families and prevented them from having a vendetta case, but it is one of the rare times that a tribal judgment has been adjudicated in a serious case rather than the law.

Aqeed Yafee, a tribal elder in the area, says the verdict was issued after a consultation between the tribe, and the sentence of intentional homicide is retribution.

"The murderer confessed to deliberately killing his cousin and there were witnesses, the case is clear, and yet there were attempts to extradite the murderer to the law, but the family of the victim refused and accepted the tribal arbitration," he added.

The two families accepted the verdict willingly and without hesitation, and according to Yafee, "Tribal custom requires you to accept the verdict from the arbitrator whatever, for any case."

Yafee attributes what happens to the fact that the state no longer exists and the courts are closed, and if the murderer is handed over to the authorities, the application of the sentence will be done only after years, which will vex the victim's family, perhaps a cause of revenge will not end, so was the first retribution.

The Sheikh objected to the release of the verdict and its implementation at that speed "as this did not allow the person to give his well and ask for forgiveness from God and his family and the family of the deceased."

Tribal custom

Yemenis have recently resorted to reviving the role of the tribe in resolving the conflict between litigants, as recourse to the law has become a major dilemma in that cases are not adjudicated, while litigants are financially exhausted by paying bribes to the police and others.

There is no specific outcome on the number of cases resolved by tribal custom (ruling), often with moral punishment, that the offender, his family, and tribe go to the victim's home, family and tribe, slaughter cattle, apologize in public and request forgiveness.

It also obliges the victim to accept an apology, and the person refusing to do so commits a defect against him and his family and tribe.

It does not depend only on moral punishment, but in some cases, the material compensation is attached to it, and the ceremony takes place after the children of the two tribes are declared, sometimes firing.

The presence of tribal rule over the law has been strengthened while the authorities have encouraged such solutions so that if two parties provide clarifications that their case--which is before the law and the judiciary--has been resolved before the courts, the authorities recognize this and close the case file.

The al-Houthi group, which controls the capital, Sana'a, and a number of governorates, and 95 percent of its militants are tribal men, encourages tribal solutions.

Jamil Ali (Gold merchant) told Al Jazeera that he withdrew his case from the commercial court, resorted to tribal arbitration in a bankruptcy case, and within one week resolved the case that had been in court since 2014.

Two weeks ago, the issue of the threat to the Director general of accounts of the central bank Ali al-Sh’aibi was terminated by a tribal reconciliation.

Conflict resolving

Since 2015, the war between the Houthis and the government, backed by the Saudi-Emirati coalition, has continued. In addition to causing thousands of casualties, it has also led to the abduction and capture of 14,000 people in the Houthis, while the number of abductees in government jails is unknown.

The prisoners ' file is held in front of UN envoys Ismail Ould Cheikh and Martin Griffiths in the consultations, and there has been no progress, while tribal mediation has led to the mutual release of hundreds of prisoners.

Sociology and politics professor Mahmoud Ibrahim said the tribe contributed to the release of the captives while the United Nations failed.

He adds that tribal efforts are important in the peace process, and the task of resolving civil society conflicts is not confined to the role of the international community alone, but that the customs of the community and the tribe contribute further.

He stressed that there are customs in the war-although some parties have violated them-no armed man or soldier can search or arrest a woman, and "these values are seldom found in another society."


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