Latest Update: 31 March 2013
Despite progress towards political transition in Yemen which may provide a framework for greater awareness of, and respect for, human rights, there is little evidence of concrete change. A law on transitional justice and reconciliation has yet to be enacted, and the death penalty continues to be applied in cases where the defendants may have committed their crimes while still minors.
The National Dialogue Conference, an important moment in the country’s political transition, was officially launched on 18 March. Turnout is encouragingly high, with broad participation, including from the south, north, women, youth groups, registered political parties and civil society. The Conference and its working groups will discuss a wide range of often highly contentious issues and should end after six months with agreed recommendations on Yemen’s future political landscape.
A law on transitional justice and reconciliation was drafted in 2012 but has yet to be ratified by parliament. There are continuing disagreements on how far back in time historical allegations of human rights violations and abuses should be considered and what form of justice will result from investigations, although we assess it is likely to be non-judicial. One of the National Dialogue working groups will handle transitional justice. This may further delay the introduction of a law.
In September 2012 the UK welcomed the decree establishing a commission of inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses and violations during Yemen’s youth revolution in 2011. This was reflected in September’s resolution on Yemen at the 21st Session of the Human Rights Council. Although there are reports that funds have been allocated to compensate victims of violence in 2011, investigations into individual cases do not appear to have started.
In December 2012 the UK and EU partners expressed deep concern at the execution of Hind al-Barti, alleged to have been a juvenile at the time she committed the crime leading to her conviction. A robust demarche was made early this year and the British Ambassador to Yemen has lobbied the Yemeni government at the highest levels to request the immediate suspension of the death penalty in such cases. In March Mohammed Haza’a was executed. This was another case where the age of the person at the time of committing the crime was disputed. In response the UK will participate in a further demarche to express our fundamental objection to capital punishment and, in particular, where it is applied in respect of crimes committed by minors. At the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council the UK representative “requested Yemen to immediately suspend the use of the death penalty against juveniles.” This request was reiterated by the representative from the EU.
At the fifth Friends of Yemen meeting, hosted by the UK in London on 7 March, all members reaffirmed their support for the promotion of human rights, in particular on investigations, accountability, and on implementing the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed in its two reports of 2012.
The UK remains deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Yemen. In February the Department for International Development (DFID) announced spending over two years of £70 million. At the recent Friends of Yemen meeting DFID also pledged a £7million contribution to the UN Development Programme trust fund set up to support next year’s elections, plus £4.4million to support both the National Dialogue Conference and the Yemeni Prime Minister’s office.
We are considering several project proposals to continue UK assistance for tackling discrimination against women and to encourage participation by under-represented groups in elections and the political process in Yemen.