Gavin Sullivan part of a legal team that removed a Yemeni man from UN Security Council blacklist

March 10, 2022

Gavin Sullivan, Visiting Fellow at the University Center for Human Values, is part of an international legal team that successfully removed a Yemeni man from the United Nations (UN) Security Council’s ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions List. Naif al-Qaysi was a former governor of Al Baidha province in south-east Yemen responsible for reinstating the Yemeni government’s security forces in the region as part of the government’s civil war against the Houthis. He was put on the Security Council’s blacklist in 2017 at the request of the U.S. Government, who alleged (without evidence) he was a supporter of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Mr. al-Qaysi has consistently denied any affiliation with or support for terrorism.

Following a pro bono application filed with the UN Office of the Ombudsperson, Mr. al-Qaysi was delisted on March 3, 2022. The team representing Mr. al-Qaysi presented evidence to show there was no basis for his inclusion on the UN’s terrorism list. It was argued that the U.S. had relied on an overly simplistic account of Yemeni tribal politics to draw terrorist ‘associations’ and used false intelligence supplied by al-Qaysi’s political opponents to incorrectly target him as an alleged AQAP leader.

The pro bono team representing Mr. al-Qaysi included Dr. Sullivan (Edinburgh Law School and UCHV Visiting Fellow), Dr. Rachel Barnes (Three Raymond Buildings Chambers, London), Maryam Mir (Doughty Street Chambers, London), with assistance from Ruby Shrimpton (Three Raymond Buildings) and independent Yemeni human rights expert, Baraa Shibaan. Mr. al-Qaysi is now looking to challenge his continued inclusion on the U.S. Specially Designated Global terrorist list administered by the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC), which remains in place despite the UN delisting decision and recognition that the terrorism allegations leveled against him are without merit. 

Dr. Sullivan’s research focuses on global security, technology, and international human rights. His book, The Law of the List: UN Counterterrorism Sanctions and the Politics of Global Security Law (Cambridge University Press 2020) won the 2021 International Studies Association’s ILAW Book Prize. His current UKRI-funded research (Infra-Legalities: Global Security Infrastructures, Artificial Intelligence, and International Law) examines how AI and automation are reshaping global security governance, including in the area of watchlisting infrastructures.

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