Latest Update: 31 December 2013
Significant violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in Yemen continue, with the government of Yemen showing limited capacity or capability to improve the situation. The death penalty remains on the statute book, and the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) has yet to adopt recommendations on transitional justice. The government has not yet acted upon its commitment to hold a Commission of Inquiry into alleged human rights abuses during the 2011 uprising. Child marriage continues.
Many human rights issues are taken up in the reports of the NDC, which will inform the drafting of a new constitution and related legislation. But effective implementation will be a challenge for some time to come. The challenging security situation continues to limit the UK’s operational effectiveness, with the December attack on the Ministry of Defence, continued violence in the north, and renewed violence in the south serving as stark reminders. In the last two years, over two hundred security personnel have been killed.
The death penalty remains for crimes such as kidnapping, drug trafficking and rape, as well as offences under Sharia Law. A member of al-Qaeda was sentenced to death in December for the bombing of an intelligence headquarters in Aden. A law on transitional justice and reconciliation, designed to provide reparation for the victims and survivors of past human rights violations, has yet to be enacted. The current draft law does not meet international transitional justice standards, but this is an area which the NDC has been discussing in detail over recent months. The commission of inquiry into the alleged human rights violations committed during the 2011 uprising has yet to be set up. An independent National Human Rights Institution for Yemen, designed to monitor current human rights violations committed by the state, has also not been set up.
Violence continues between the Houthi (a Zaydi Shia group) and a tribal alliance in north-west Yemen. The fighting is impacting civilian populations, including women and children, and severely restricting humanitarian access, thereby increasingly the likelihood of a new humanitarian disaster. Women continue to face discrimination in all aspects of their lives. They are prohibited from marrying or travelling without the permission of male guardians; they do not have equal rights to divorce, inheritance or child custody; and they lack legal protection, leaving them exposed to domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage also remains a problem, though the NDC has discussed the introduction of a minimum legal age.
The UK has discussed planning for the forthcoming constitutional referendum and elections with the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum, including during the visit of Sir Bob Kerslake (Head of UK Civil Service) in November and with the G10 Ambassadors in December. The UK is also considering new opportunities to fund projects to train Yemenis in a human rights based approach to prison management.
Update: 30 September 2013
There is little evidence of positive change in Yemen and the human rights situation remains dire. A law on transitional justice and reconciliation drafted in 2012 has yet to be enacted, and the death penalty continues to be applied in cases where those convicted may have been minors when they committed their offences. Investigations into alleged human rights abuses during the 2011 youth revolution have still not been conducted. Child marriage is widespread. In September there were reports that an eight-year-old girl had died of internal injuries on her wedding night.
The National Dialogue Conference (NDC), key to the country’s political transition, did not conclude as scheduled on 18 September. A number of important rights issues are still being challenged, such as the proposal to establish a minimum age for marriage in Yemen. Outside the walls of the NDC a campaign has been started by religious conservatives against a 30% quota for women in government and parliament. On 25 September the Foreign Secretary co-chaired the Friends of Yemen ministerial meeting, which supported the transition process in Yemen and reinforced the need for compromises to be made, outreach work initiated, and the NDC drawn to a close with a move to drafting a new constitution for Yemen.
Although Yemen’s Human Rights Ministry announced in the last quarter it would seek to improve prison inmates’ living conditions in alignment with all national and international laws and regulations, and facilitate their reintegration into society, no progress has been made. Whilst Yemen has existing legislation to protect the welfare and treatment of prisoners, this is not adhered to. Violence and corruption remain endemic and the administration system is weak. Many remain in detention after their release has been ordered.
The UK is supporting a transition from prosecutions based on confessions and witness statements to ones based on the collection and analysis of evidence. Between June and September the UK organised and funded training in basic forensics and crime scene investigations for 128 students (including ten women). Students were drawn from the police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, members of the existing forensics faculty and two officials from the Ministry of Human Rights.
In September, the UK co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Yemen. This Resolution, to which Yemen is also a signatory, urges that legislation and administrative, social and educational measures are put in place to eliminate the occurrence of child, early and forced marriages.
The UK, bilaterally and with international partners, continues to urge the government of Yemen to introduce this legislation and supports the efforts of the Yemen Human Rights Minister to do so. The UK is also developing a pilot project to protect and support adolescent girls, and funds humanitarian partners to provide training on rights and to monitor the conditions of detainees. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has now opened in Sana’a. This should add impetus to the struggle to improve the observance of human rights in Yemen.
Update: 30 June 2013
Despite progress towards political transition in Yemen which may provide a framework for greater awareness of, and respect for, human rights, there remains little evidence of concrete change. A law on transitional justice and reconciliation has still yet to be enacted, and the death penalty continues to be applied in cases where the defendants may have committed their crimes whilst still minors. Investigations into alleged human rights abuses during the 2011 youth revolution have still not been conducted.
The National Dialogue Conference (NDC), key to the country’s political transition, reached its half way point on 18 June. Turnout continues to be encouragingly high, with broad participation, including from the south, north, women (now meeting its target of comprising 30% of delegates), youth groups, registered political parties and civil society. The NDC remains broadly on track to meet its objectives on recommendations for Yemen’s future political landscape. Six of the nine working groups had successfully completed discussion of their first session final reports. The Southern Issue, Saada Issue, and State-Building Working Groups will require additional time to complete their in-group discussions.
A law on transitional justice and reconciliation drafted in 2012 has yet to be ratified by Yemen’s parliament because of disagreements on how far back in time historical allegations of human rights violations and abuses should be considered. The fact that one of the National Dialogue working groups leads on transitional justice may further delay the introduction of a law.
The Yemen Human Rights Ministry announced it would seek to improve prison inmates’ living conditions in alignment with all national and international laws and regulations. Whilst Yemen has existing legislation to protect the welfare and treatment of prisoners, this is not adhered to. Violence and corruption are endemic and the administration system is weak, meaning that many remain in detention after their release has been ordered. The Ministry also announced it wished to develop programmes to help detainees re-integrate into society.
On 27 June the British Embassy in Sana’a and government of Yemen co-hosted the third Yemen Human Rights Task Force. This is an initiative designed to help draw in the international community and the private sector to provide the support Yemen needs to confront the multitude of human rights issues it faces.
Several project proposals are currently being considered which we hope will see continued UK assistance to tackling discrimination against women, and encourage participation by under-represented groups in elections and the political process in Yemen.
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.