Report on Human Rights Practices for 2001
The Republic of Yemen, comprising the former (northern) Yemen Arab Republic
(YAR) and (southern) People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), was
proclaimed in 1990. Following a brief but bloody civil war in mid-1994,
the country was reunified under the Sana'a-based government. President
Ali Abdullah Saleh is the leader of the General People's Congress (GPC),
which dominates the Government. He was elected by the legislature to a
5-year term in 1994, and was elected to another 5-year term in the country's
first nationwide direct presidential election in September 1999, winning
96.3 percent of the vote. The Constitution provides that the President
be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by Parliament,
and the election was generally free and fair; however, there were some
problems, including the lack of a credible voter registration list. In
addition the President was not opposed by a truly competitive candidate
because the candidate selected by the leftist opposition did not receive
the minimum number of votes required to run from the GPC-dominated Parliament
(the other opposition party chose not to run its own candidate, despite
its seats in Parliament). The President's sole opponent was a member of
the GPC. The first Parliament elected by universal adult suffrage was
convened in 1993. Parliamentary elections were held again in 1997, with
the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), formerly the main party of the PDRY
and a previous coalition partner of the GPC, leading an opposition boycott.
The GPC won an absolute majority in the 1997 Parliament, with the opposition
Islamist and tribal Yemeni Grouping for Reform (Islaah) as the only other
major party represented. International observers judged that the elections
were reasonably free and fair, while noting some problems with voting
procedures. The Parliament is not yet an effective counterweight to executive
authority, although it increasingly demonstrates independence from the
Government. Real political power rests with the executive branch, particularly
the President. The country's first local elections were held in February,
with all major opposition parties participating. The judiciary is nominally
independent, but is weak and severely hampered by corruption, executive
branch interference, and the frequent failure of the authorities to enforce
The primary state security apparatus is the Political Security Organization
(PSO), an independent agency that reports directly to the President.
The Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the police reports to
the Ministry of Interior and conducts most criminal investigations and
makes most arrests. The Central Security Organization (CSO), also a
part of the Ministry of Interior, maintains a paramilitary force. The
civilian authorities do not maintain effective control of the security
forces. Members of the security forces, particularly the PSO, committed
numerous, serious human rights abuses.
Yemen is a very poor country with a population of approximately 18
million; about 40 percent of the population live in poverty. Its embryonic
market-based economy, despite a major economic reform program, remains
impeded by excessive government interference and widespread corruption.
Annual per capita gross national product (GNP) rose to $403 in 2000,
up from $373 in 1999. Agriculture accounts for approximately 22 percent
of GNP; industry, including construction and trade, for approximately
45 percent; and services for approximately 33 percent. Oil is the primary
source of foreign exchange. Other exports include fish, livestock, coffee,
and detergents. Remittances from citizens working abroad (primarily
in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Persian Gulf states) also are important.
However, remittances were reduced sharply after Saudi Arabia and other
Gulf states expelled up to 850,000 Yemeni workers during the Gulf War
because of the Government's lack of support for the U.N. coalition.
The Gulf states also suspended most assistance programs, and much Western
aid was reduced. Foreign aid has begun to reemerge as an important source
of income, with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait resuming soft loan programs
during the year. The unemployment rate is estimated at 35 percent, and
is highest in the southern governorates, where, prior to unity, most
adults were employed by the PDRY Government.
The Government generally respected its citizens' human rights in some
areas and continued to improve its human rights performance; however,
its record was poor in several other areas, and serious problems remain.
There are significant limitations on citizens' ability to change their
government. Members of the security forces killed a number of persons
during the year. Members of the security forces tortured and otherwise
abused persons, and continued to arrest and detain citizens arbitrarily,
especially oppositionists in the south and other persons regarded as
"secessionists." Directives intended to align the country's
arrest, interrogation, and detention procedures more closely with internationally
accepted standards generally were implemented during the year. Prison
conditions were poor, and some detainees were held in private prisons
not authorized by the Government. However, during the year, the Government
conducted prison inspections, released prisoners being held after their
sentences had been completed, and cooperated with international nongovernmental
organizations (NGO's) to study and improve conditions for female prisoners.
PSO officers have broad discretion over perceived national security
issues. Despite constitutional constraints, security officers routinely
monitor citizens' activities, search their homes, detain citizens for
questioning, and mistreat detainees. The Government usually failed to
hold members of the security forces accountable for abuses; however,
there were two convictions of security officials for abuses in late
2000. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial
corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process.
The Government continued to implement a comprehensive long-term program
for judicial reform. The law limited freedom of speech and of the press,
and the Government continued to harass, intimidate, and detain journalists.
Journalists practiced self-censorship. The Government at times limited
freedom of assembly. The Government imposed some restrictions on freedom
of religion, and placed some limits on freedom of movement. The Government
adopted measures to decentralize government authority by establishing
locally elected governorate and district councils; the first elections
to the councils were held in February. The new Minister of State for
Human Rights was the country's first female minister. The Government
displayed official receptiveness to and support for donor-funded democracy
and human rights programs, and in April created a new human rights ministerial
portfolio. Violence and discrimination against women were problems.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) was practiced on a limited scale, primarily
along the coastal areas of the Red Sea. The Government publicly discouraged
FGM, and in January the cabinet issued a decree making it illegal for
public or private health service practitioners to perform it. There
was some discrimination against persons with disabilities and against
religious, racial, and ethnic minorities. The Government influences
labor unions. Child labor was a problem.
The number of tribal kidnapings of foreigners has steadily decreased
over the past 4 years, which is at least in part the result of the Government's
establishment of a special court to try kidnapers and other violent
offenders. The campaign of bombings--the devices sometimes were little
more than noise makers--that had continued for several years, particularly
in the southern governorates, appeared to have abated, although there
were several explosions during the year, including the detonation of
three small bombs in Aden early in the year. Observers attributed these
bombings to tribal disputes, religious extremists, and antigovernment
political groups based in the country and abroad.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Members of the security forces killed a number of persons during the
year. There were some reports during the year that security forces at
checkpoints killed or injured persons whom they believed were engaging
in criminal activity and resisting arrest.
In January the human rights organization Forum for a Civil Society reported
that Mohammed al-Yafia, who was convicted in 1996 for his involvement
in a series of bombings in Aden and who had complained of being tortured
in 1997, had died under suspicious circumstances in al-Mansura Prison
in Aden (see Section 1.c.).
In April a demonstrator was killed and another wounded when a soldier
fired into a crowd protesting a zoning decision in the al-Dalah governorate.
The soldier reportedly was arrested, but at year's end there was no
information about whether he was disciplined (see Section 2.b.).
On December 18, military and security forces conducted armed operations
in Marib and Shebwa governates in an attempt to apprehend terrorists
affiliated with the al-Qaida organization. The operation began peacefully,
but, due to circumstances that were unclear, the confrontation escalated
into a shootout when tribal members opened fire on security forces.
Nineteen security forces personnel were killed and 30 wounded; reportedly
four tribal members were killed and seven wounded. The al-Qaida suspects
escaped and were still being sought by the Government at year's end.
In August 2000, Sabah Seif Salem reportedly died while being detained
in a prison in the al-Udain district of Ibb governorate. Her family
claimed that security officials tortured her to extract a confession
of adultery (see Section 1.c.).
No security officials were tried or convicted for abuses committed
during the year. However, in December 2000, the penal court in Hodeidah
governorate found two security officials guilty of torturing a citizen
to death in 1995. The officials were demoted, dismissed, and sentenced
to 3 years in prison (see Section 1.c.).
On October 12, 2000, terrorists in a small bomb-laden boat attacked
the USS Cole, a U.S. naval ship, as it refueled in Aden harbor. The
explosion killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others. The investigation
into the attack was ongoing, and several suspects were in custody at
year's end (see Section 1.e.).
Approximately 28 persons were killed in election related violence in
February (see Section 3).
Tribal violence resulted in a number of killings and other abuses,
and the Government's ability to control tribal elements remained limited.
In addition tensions between the Government and various tribes periodically
escalated into violent confrontations (see Section 5).
Persons continued to be killed and injured in unexplained bombings
and shootings that occurred during the year. In most cases, it was impossible
to determine who was responsible for such acts or why they occurred,
and there were no claims of responsibility. The Government accused southern
oppositionists of perpetrating some incidents, but the opposition denied
any involvement. Some cases appeared to have criminal, religious, or
political motives; others appeared to be cases of tribal revenge or
land disputes. In June 1998, the President established a committee to
study the phenomenon of revenge killings and to make recommendations
on how to combat the problem. Presumably in response to the committee's
inability to produce results, the President in May gave the new Shura
Council (see Section 3) the task of developing a strategy to address
the phenomenon of violent tribal revenge. In November the Dar al-Salam
Arbitration Organization, a local NGO, held the country's first "anti-revenge
Members of the security forces continue to arrest and detain citizens
for varying periods of time without charge or notification to their
families. Many detainees are associated with the YSP or other opposition
parties and are accused of being "secessionists." Such detentions
are temporary; detainees typically are released within weeks or, at
most, months. Those who are not released eventually are charged.
In 1998 at the invitation of authorities, delegations from the UNHRC
and Amnesty International (AI) visited the country to investigate the
whereabouts of persons who allegedly have disappeared in custody since
unification. In 1997 the Government had promised AI that it would look
into 27 cases of persons who died after they allegedly disappeared while
in government custody during the violence associated with the civil
war in 1994. In its follow-up report issued in July 1999, AI criticized
the Government for not keeping this promise. The Government claims that
it responded to AI and passed the results of its investigations to the
UNHRC, but that the information AI provided was inadequate for effective
investigation and conclusive action. Both the U.N. Committee on Disappearances
and AI also continue to allege that there are hundreds of unresolved
disappearances dating from the preunity period in the former PDRY, particularly
from its 1986 civil war. The Government asserts that it cannot be held
responsible for cases that took place within the former PDRY prior to
unity; however, it has set up a computer database in the Ministry of
Foreign Relations to track disappearances, including those dating from
the preunity period. The Government states that the scarcity of records,
resulting from the country's lack of an effective national registry,
hindered its attempts during the year to create database files, especially
for persons who disappeared in the PDRY in the 1970's. AI has received
no credible reports of new disappearances in the last 7 years.
Some tribes seek to bring their political and economic concerns to
the attention of the Government by kidnaping and holding hostages. Foreign
businessmen, diplomats, and tourists are the principal targets. During
the year, seven foreigners were kidnaped (six men and one woman), as
well as a much higher number of citizens. There also were two failed
kidnaping attempts against foreign diplomats. A total of 166 foreigners
have been kidnaped since 1992. In a 1998 study, the legal magazine al-Qistas
found that Sana'a, Marib, and Shabwa are the areas in which a foreigner
is most likely to be kidnaped. Kidnaping victims rarely are injured,
and the authorities generally have been successful in obtaining the
negotiated release of foreign hostages. However, in 2000 a Norwegian
diplomat on vacation was killed near Sana'a during an exchange of fire
between checkpoint police and his abductors.
There has been a marked decline in tribal kidnapings of foreigners,
from 10 cases involving 27 persons in 1998 to 9 cases involving 21 persons
in 1999 to 6 cases involving 8 persons in 2000, to 7 cases involving
7 persons during the year. Kidnapings had been a persistent problem
in the past, due to the judiciary's frequent failure to impose sentences
against accused kidnapers because some persons linked to kidnapings
were members of prominent tribes or had links with such tribes. In most
cases, the kidnapings were settled out of court, with no suspects facing
trial; however, this practice has changed. In August 1998, the Government
issued by presidential decree a law that stipulated severe punishments
up to and including capital punishment for persons involved in kidnaping,
"carjacking," attacking oil pipelines, and other acts of banditry
and sabotage. In October 1999, the Government announced the establishment
of a special court in Sana'a to implement this law and created a special
prosecutor to investigate and try those charged under its provisions.
In December a court convicted four men who had kidnaped a German citizen
in November. The perpetrator received a 25-year sentence, and the others
received 20-year sentences. In 2000 the court sentenced an individual
who had kidnaped three German tourists in 1999 to 12 years in jail;
the kidnaper of an American and a group of Europeans (in 1997) to 20
years; and two additional kidnapers to 15 years. In February the kidnaper
of three American tourists (in 1999) received a 12-year jail sentence.
The arrests, trials, and convictions continue. The Government's prosecution
of persons charged with kidnaping appears to have had a deterrent effect.
There were no reports of tribal opposition or interference in the arrests
or the judicial process connected with these cases.
c. Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution is ambiguous regarding the prohibition of cruel or
inhuman punishment, and members of the security forces tortured and
otherwise abused persons in detention. Arresting authorities are known
to use force during interrogations, especially against those arrested
for violent crimes. Detainees in some instances are confined in leg-irons
and shackles, despite a 1998 law outlawing this practice.
The Government has acknowledged publicly that torture takes place,
but it has claimed that the use of torture is not government policy.
Nevertheless, the Government has not taken effective steps to end the
practice or to punish those who commit such abuses. A government prosecutor
has cited illiteracy and lack of training among police and security
officials as reasons for the persistence of the use of undue force in
prisons; a human rights activist has suggested that corruption and pressure
from superiors to produce convictions also plays a role. The immunity
of all public employees from prosecution for crimes allegedly committed
while on duty also hinders accountability; prosecutors must obtain permission
from the Attorney General to investigate members of the security forces,
and the head of the Appeals Court formally must lift their immunity
before they are tried. Low salaries for police officers, about $35 to
$53 (6,000 to 9,000 riyals) per month, also contribute to corruption
and police abuse.
In January the human rights organization Forum for a Civil Society
reported that Mohammed al-Yafia, who was convicted in 1996 for his involvement
in a series of bombings in Aden and who had complained of being tortured
in 1997, died under suspicious circumstances in al-Mansura Prison in
Aden on December 16, 2000.
In August 2000, Sabah Seif Salem reportedly died while being detained
in a prison in the al-Udain district of Ibb governorate. Her family
claimed that security officials tortured her to extract a confession
of adultery. The director of Ibb security directed that an autopsy be
performed and summoned the head of al-Udain's security office for questioning.
The investigation found that Salem was pregnant when she was detained
for questioning and went into labor while in police custody. She was
transported to a clinic, but died as a result of complications during
childbirth. Salem's baby also died. The investigation concluded that
Salem had not been tortured (see Section 1.a.).
There were no reported prosecutions or convictions of security officers
for abuses committed during the year. However, in December 2000, the
penal court in Hodeidah governorate found two security officials guilty
of torturing a citizen to death in 1995 (see Section 1.a.). The officials
were demoted, dismissed, and sentenced to 3 years in prison.
There have been numerous allegations and credible evidence that in
past years the authorities tortured and abused suspects and detainees,
in cases resulting in death, in order to attempt to coerce confessions
before or during trial. However, there were no such allegations during
The Constitution may be interpreted as permitting amputations in accordance
with Shari'a (Islamic law). In January authorities amputated the right
hand of Ahmed Mohammed Sharaf, a repeat offender convicted of murder
(he was also sentenced to death, but had not been executed by year's
end). However, the use of amputations as punishment is extremely rare.
Prior to the Sharaf case, there had been no reports of amputations since
1991, although a small number of persons who have been found guilty
of theft and sentenced to amputation remain in jail awaiting the implementation
of their sentences. The Shari'a-based law permits physical punishment
such as flogging for some crimes. For example, in July 2000, two individuals
convicted of kidnaping were sentenced to 80 lashes (the penalty for
the consumption of alcohol) in addition to a period of imprisonment
because they had been intoxicated during the commission of their crime.
In Ibb governorate in January 2000, Mohamed Tahbit al-Su'mi, after being
tried and convicted, was stoned to death for the 1992 rape and murder
of his 12-year-old daughter. Capital punishment usually is carried out
by firing squad; stoning is almost unheard of, but was approved in this
case due to the unusual brutality of the crime. In rare cases involving
particularly egregious crimes, such as the rape and murder of children,
the law permits the ritual display in public of the bodies of executed
criminals. The ostensible purpose of this practice is to demonstrate
to the families of victims that justice has been served and to prevent
blood feuds between tribes.
The Government at times uses excessive force to put down demonstrations
and riots. In April a soldier killed a demonstrator and wounded another
when he fired into a crowd protesting a zoning decision in the al-Dalah
governorate (see Section 2.b.).
Tribal violence continued to be a problem during the year, causing
numerous deaths and injuries (see Section 5).
Prison conditions are poor and do not meet internationally recognized
standards. Prisons are overcrowded, sanitary conditions are poor, and
food and health care are inadequate. Inmates depend on relatives for
food and medicine. Many inmates lack mattresses or bedding. Prison authorities
often exact bribes from prisoners or refuse to release prisoners who
have completed their sentences until family members pay a bribe. Tribal
leaders misuse the prison system by placing "problem" tribesmen
in jail, either to punish them for noncriminal indiscretions or to protect
them from retaliation or violence motivated by revenge. Authorities
in some cases arrest without charge and imprison refugees, persons with
mental disabilities, and illegal immigrants and place them in prisons
with common criminals.
Conditions are equally poor in women's prisons, where children likely
are incarcerated along with their mothers. By custom and preference,
babies born in prison generally remain in prison with their mothers.
At times female prisoners are subjected to sexual harassment and violent
interrogation by male police and prison officials. The law requires
male members of the families of female prisoners to arrange their release;
however, female prisoners regularly are held in jail past the expiration
of their sentences because their male relatives refuse to authorize
their release due to the shame associated with their alleged behavior.
In 2000 the Government's Supreme National Committee for Human Rights
initiated a project with the National Women's Committee to establish
a shelter in Sana'a to house 50 of these abandoned women and provide
them with vocational education; however, at year's end, the National
Women's Committee was still seeking donor funding for the project.
There was increased attention focused during the year on the circumstances
of women prisoners. Several NGO's, often with Government support, undertook
activities to address the legal and other problems of female prisoners
(see Section 4). For example, in March the Human Rights Information
and Training Center (HRITC) organized a workshop to improve conditions
for women in Taiz Central Prison, an initiative that it hopes to expand
to other cities. In April the al-Afif Young Girls Forum organized a
seminar to discuss legal and cultural obstacles to reforming women's
prisons. In June under the patronage of the new Minister of State for
Human Rights and in association with the International Human Rights
Legal Group, the Arab Human Rights Forum, al-Shakiq, conducted a 3-day
program on protecting the rights of female prisoners. The program was
attended by women's rights activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Pakistan,
Malaysia, and the United States, as well as Yemen.
Unauthorized "private" prisons are a problem. Most such prisons
are in rural areas controlled by tribes, and many are simply a room
in a tribal sheikh's house. Persons detained in such prisons often are
held for strictly personal or tribal reasons and without trial or sentencing.
There are credible reports of the existence of private prisons in government
installations, although these prisons are not sanctioned by senior officials.
In July 2000, Mohamed Naji Alao, a parliamentarian and founder of the
human rights NGO the Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, discovered
that several private prisons were being operated at government facilities
in Sana'a. He reported them to the President, who immediately ordered
the unlawful prisons closed and the offenders arrested. In April 1999,
the chairman of the Sana'a governorate prosecutor's office, Salem Ahmed
al-Shaiba, inspected several illegal prisons operated by the Sana'a
governor's office and sent his findings to the Attorney General. According
to al-Shaiba's findings, 19 individuals had been imprisoned beyond their
legal sentence; several prisoners were detained in handcuffs illegally;
numerous individuals were detained illegally in connection with civil
or commercial cases or because they had disobeyed a tribal sheikh; and
43 persons from the Shibam al-Gharas region were being detained on the
same charge (shooting at a truck).
In 2000 the Government issued directives intended to align the country's
arrest, interrogation, and detention procedures more closely with internationally
accepted standards. For example, the Ministry of Interior created detention
and interrogation centers in each governorate (including four in Sana'a),
to prevent suspects from being detained with convicted criminals. The
Government also formally instructed police and prison officials that
detainees be provided adequate food, that prisoners be released upon
completion of their sentences, and that juveniles (with the exception
of those convicted of murder) be incarcerated in facilities separated
from adults. In addition the Government created a female police force
and developed regulatory guidance for their activities to better respond
to the needs of female prisoners and female victims of crimes. The Government's
directives generally were implemented in practice.
In November the President celebrated the Islamic holy month of Ramadan
by arranging for the release of a reported 3,500 prisoners. All of those
prisoners had been released by year's end. Other releases began in January
2000, when the Government's Supreme National Committee for Human Rights
led a government initiative to establish and finance, along with private
sector contributions, a special "charity fund" to be used
to enable the release of prisoners who, in keeping with tribal or Islamic
law, were being held in prison pending payment of restitution to their
victims, despite having completed their sentences. In 2000 the President
appointed a high-level interministerial committee, chaired by the Minister
of Interior, to inspect all major prisons in the country, both to identify
prisoners whom the fund could help and to investigate conditions. The
inspection committee immediately released persons being held illegally,
developed recommendations for reform, and arranged for the eventual
release during 2000 of over 1,000 prisoners who had been held beyond
their sentences (in violation of the law) until they could pay restitution.
The Government tightly controls access to detention facilities by NGO's,
although in some cases it permits local and international human rights
monitors access to persons accused of crimes. In 2000 the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with the Government's full cooperation,
conducted a comprehensive inspection of the country's major prisons.
While serious problems remain, the ICRC acknowledged the Government's
commitment to penal reform and noted that the Government had made significant
improvements since the 1995 ICRC inspection, especially with regard
to the incarceration of persons with mental disabilities.
The PSO does not permit access to its detention centers.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law provides due process safeguards; however, security forces arbitrarily
arrest and detain persons. Enforcement of the law is irregular and in
some cases nonexistent, particularly in cases involving security offenses.
According to the law, detainees must be arraigned within 24 hours of
arrest or be released. The judge or prosecuting attorney must inform
the accused of the basis for the arrest and decide whether detention
is required. In no case may a detainee legally be held longer than 7
days without a court order. Despite these constitutional and other legal
provisions, arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention without charge
are common practices. In April 2000, Parliament passed a revised Police
Law, which established the mandate, duties, and procedures for police.
During the year, the Government continued to detain journalists briefly
for questioning concerning articles that were critical of the Government
or that the Government considered sensitive. In May the PSO detained
journalist Hassan al-Zaidi and held him incommunicado for 16 days, at
times in solitary confinement. In September the PSO again detained al-Zaidi
for 2 weeks (see Section 2.a.). However, the decline in the number of
such incidents from 1999 continued.
The law prohibits incommunicado detentions. The law provides detainees
with the right to inform their families of their arrests and to decline
to answer questions without an attorney present. There are provisions
for bail. In practice many authorities abide by these provisions only
Citizens regularly claim that security officials did not observe due
process procedures when arresting and detaining suspects, particularly
those accused of involvement in political violence. There also were
claims that private individuals hired lower-level security officials
to intervene on their behalf and harass their business rivals. Security
forces at times detained demonstrators (see Section 2.b.).
The Yemeni Institute for Democratic Development (YIDD) reported that
Amar Mahmoud Ali Abdo al-Madhagi was arrested by CID officials in May
and held without charge for approximately 6 weeks. Al-Madhagi's family
claimed that security officials detained al-Madhagi as he was walking
down the street in Sana'a, coerced a confession from him regarding his
purported involvement in terrorist activities, and then held him incommunicado.
The Government denied the family's version of al-Madhagi's arrest. The
Ministry of State for Human Rights looked into the YIDD report and stated
that al-Madhagi had approached the authorities, claiming to have information
regarding the October 2000 terrorist attack against the USS Cole (see
Section 1.a.). The authorities determined that the information provided
by al-Madhagi was a hoax, and arrested him for "intentionally providing
inaccurate and misleading information." According to the Ministry,
al-Madhagi was in prison and awaiting trial at year's end.
In cases in which a criminal suspect is at large, security forces in
some instances detain a relative while the suspect is being sought.
The detention may continue while the concerned families negotiate compensation
for the alleged wrongdoing. Arbitration, rather than the court system,
commonly is used to settle cases.
The Government failed to ensure that detainees and prisoners are incarcerated
only in authorized detention facilities. The Ministry of Interior and
the PSO operate extrajudicial detention facilities. A large percentage
of the total prison population consists of pretrial detainees. There
have been allegations that a large number of persons have been imprisoned
for years without documentation concerning charges against them, their
trials, or their sentences.
Aziz Mohamed Musaid, who was arrested in Taiz in September 1998 and
charged with intent to commit adultery, was released on bail in December
2000; however, his trial remained pending. Musaid's case had languished
and he remained in jail because the presiding judge, Abdul Jabar Taha
al-Kharasani, refused to adjudicate the case. The charges did not appear
to be supported by solid evidence. In October 1999, the Minister of
Interior ordered al-Kharasani to turn over his cases, including Musaid's,
to another judge, but he refused to do so. Al-Kharasani was finally
compelled to do so in December 2000, and another judge has taken the
While some cases of those being held without charge have been redressed
through the efforts of local human rights groups and government inspection
missions (and some illegally detained prisoners released), the authorities
have not investigated nor resolved these cases adequately.
Unauthorized private prisons also exist in tribal areas in which the
Government does not exercise authority effectively. Persons detained
in such prisons often are held for strictly personal reasons and without
trial or sentencing (see Sections 1.c. and 1.e.).
The law does not permit forced exile. The Government does not use forced
exile. However, at the end of the 1994 civil war, the Government denied
amnesty to the 16 most senior leaders of the armed, secessionist Democratic
Republic of Yemen (DRY) who fled abroad. Although they were not forced
into exile, they are subject to arrest if they return. The trial of
the so-called "16" concluded in March 1998. During the year,
with the encouragement of the Government, prominent southern journalists,
military officers, and their families who fled the country during the
1994 civil war returned to the country (see Section 1.e.).
In December the Government deported approximately 100 foreigners, many
of whom were studying at Muslim religious schools, who allegedly were
in the country illegally. The Government claimed that these persons
were suspected of inciting violence or engaging in criminal acts by
promoting religious extremism. The Government deported them using existing
laws that require all foreigners to register with the police or immigration
authorities within a month of arrival in the country.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an "autonomous" judiciary and
independent judges; however, the judiciary is not fully independent,
and it is weak and severely hampered by corruption, executive branch
interference, and the frequent failure of the authorities to enforce
judgments. Judges are appointed by the executive branch, and some have
been harassed, reassigned, or removed from office following rulings
against the Government. For example, there were credible reports that
in 1999 then-governor of Sana'a Naji al-Sufi repeatedly interfered with
and attempted to intimidate members of the judiciary, including assault
on a defense lawyer, detaining at least two judges, and harassing the
chairman of Sana'a governorate's prosecutor's office. Many litigants
maintain, and the Government acknowledges, that a judge's social ties
and susceptibility to bribery at times have greater influence on the
verdict than the law or the facts of the case. Many judges are poorly
trained; some closely associated with the Government often render decisions
favorable to it. The judiciary is hampered further by the Government's
frequent reluctance to enforce judgments. Tribal members at times threaten
and harass members of the judiciary. For example, in August 2000, members
of the Bani Dhubian tribe kidnaped judge Abdu Rahman Abu Taleb, who
was presiding over a land dispute case involving the tribe.
There are five types of courts: Criminal; civil and personal status
(for example, divorce and inheritance); kidnaping/terrorism; commercial;
All laws are codified from Shari'a, under which there are no jury trials.
Criminal cases are adjudicated by a judge, who plays an active role
in questioning witnesses and the accused. Under the Constitution and
by law, the Government must provide attorneys for indigent defendants;
however, in practice this never occurs. Despite a stipulation that the
Government provide legal aid to indigent defendants, the law does not
explicitly prohibit trying criminal defendants without a lawyer, and
the judicial budget currently does not allow for defense attorneys.
Judges at times "appoint" attorneys present in their courtrooms
to represent indigent defendants; however, such attorneys legally are
not required to take the case, although most accept in order to avoid
displeasing judges before whom they must appear later.
By law prosecutors are a part of the judiciary and independent of the
Government; however, in practice prosecutors consider themselves as
an extension of the police. They do not receive the normal judicial
training that judges do, nor do they fulfill their legal obligation
to prosecute police who delay reporting arrests and detentions.
Defense attorneys are allowed to counsel their clients, address the
court, and examine witnesses. Defendants, including those in commercial
courts, have the right to appeal their sentences. Trials generally are
public; however, all courts may conduct closed sessions "for reasons
of public security or morals." Foreign litigants in commercial
disputes have complained of biased rulings. However, some foreign companies
have won cases against local defendants, and some such decisions have
In addition to regular courts, the law permits a system of tribal adjudication
for noncriminal issues, although in practice tribal "judges"
often adjudicate criminal cases as well. The results of such mediation
carry the same if not greater weight as court judgments. Persons jailed
under the tribal system usually are not charged formally with a crime
but stand publicly accused of their transgression.
In October 1999, the Government established a special court to try
persons charged with kidnaping, "carjacking," attacking oil
pipelines and other acts of banditry and sabotage (see Section 1.b.).
Several persons tried by this special court have received lengthy jail
sentences, which appears to have had a deterrent effect on tribal kidnapings.
Prior to unification, approximately half of the judges working in southern
Yemen were women. However, after the 1994 civil war, conservative leaders
of the judiciary reassigned many southern female judges to administrative
or clerical duties. Although several female judges continue to practice
in Aden, there are no female judges in northern courts.
The Government continued the program it began in late 1997 to reform
the judiciary. This comprehensive, long-term reform program is intended
to improve the operational efficiency and statutory independence of
the judiciary by placing reform-minded personnel into the courts; forming
an interministerial council to oversee the reform project; publishing
a judicial code of ethics; and making the Supreme Court smaller, more
efficient, and less corrupt. Foreign donors have offered to provide
assistance in implementing judicial reform, which the Government has
accepted. While the program has not yet been completed, some attorneys
cite improvements, including a reduction in the number of Supreme Court
justices from 90 to 40 in 1998, an increase in judges' salaries in order
to deter corruption, an increase in the Ministry of Justice's budget
in 2000, and participation by judges in workshops and study tours conducted
by foreign judicial officials. However, there have not yet been any
In August the country's Higher Judicial Council, chaired by the President,
dismissed 20 judges and prosecutors for violating the law and forced
108 others to retire. The council also strengthened the Ministry of
Justice's authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of judicial
abuse, and instructed the Accountability Council to accelerate its investigation
of pending cases. Also in August, the Minister of Justice led an inspection
tour of courts in several governorates to review the performance of
officials, identify problems and take corrective action, if necessary.
In September the Cabinet approved a package of judicial reform measures
aimed primarily at improving the country's commercial and public finance
courts, which deal with taxes, customs, and foreign exchange law. Later
in the month, the Ministry of Justice initiated a project to upgrade
the country's judicial infrastructure, including construction of 55
new courthouses, prosecution offices, and residences for judges in several
governorates. The Ministry completed 20 facilities by year's end.
In 1999 a U.N. Development Program (UNDP) team visited the country
to conduct an assessment that would serve as the basis of a second judicial
reform program, which originally was scheduled to begin in January 2000
and end in 2002. The team noted the Government's willingness to address
long-standing issues of accountability and transparency and to implement
laws more effectively. The program's goals would be to modernize Ministry
of Justice equipment, improve the country's legal libraries, provide
special training for the Attorney General's office, enhance public awareness
of the rule of law, and secure a building for the Supreme Court. The
UNDP continues to seek donor funding for the program, which had not
begun by year's end.
A third judicial reform program, financed by international assistance,
was initiated in January 2000 and is to last through March 2002. The
program focuses on the Ministries of Justice and of Legal and Parliamentary
Affairs and is to provide training in business and commercial law for
judges; a diagnostic study of judicial education curriculum; training
on drafting of legislation; and a review of the country's commercial
laws to identify and correct inconsistencies or close gaps. The program
The security services continued to arrest and prosecutors to charge
and try persons alleged to be linked to various shootings, explosions,
bombings, and other acts of violence. Citizens and human rights groups
alleged that the judiciary did not observe due process standards in
In February the lawyer for two suspects detained in connection with
the investigation into the October 12, 2000, terrorist attack against
the USS Cole in Aden harbor (see Section 1.a.), claimed that authorities
denied him access to his clients. There also were expressions of concern
that the prosecution has postponed proceeding to trial to give security
officials more time to investigate with their U.S. counterparts. There
have been no reports of allegations of torture from persons detained
in connection with the investigation.
On January 1 and 2, explosive devices were detonated in Aden outside
the Anglican Christ Church, which is used as a transient hotel by seamen,
and the official SABA News Agency office. Authorities attributed the
bombings to religious extremists, possibly affiliated with the AAIA
(see Section 1.a.). Five persons were arrested in January; their trial
began in April and had not concluded by year's end. The accused leader,
Abu Bakr Said Jayul, was convicted in July along with three others for
planting a bomb at the British Embassy in Sana'a in October 2000. Jayul
and a second defendant received a 15-year jail sentence; the remaining
defendants were given 6 and 4 years. They appealed their sentences,
and in October the Sana'a Penal Appeals Court reduced them to 10, 4,
and 2 years, respectively. There were claims that there were procedural
irregularities in the trial.
The trial of seven AAIA members on terrorism charges, which began in
October 1999, ended in June 2000. Two were found guilty and given jail
sentences; the remaining five were acquitted. Two of the defendants
were tried in absentia. Four claimed that the prosecution coerced and
tortured them into making self-incriminating statements and confessions
(see Section 1.c.). The judge issued a ruling prohibiting the publication
of details about the trial. The convicted leader, Hatem bin Fareed,
appealed his 7-year jail sentence, but in April the Sana'a Appeals Court
upheld it. Authorities maintain that bin Fareed was the putative successor
to AAIA leader "Abu Hassan," who was executed in 1999.
The Government claims that it does not hold political prisoners. Local
opposition politicians and human rights activists generally accept this
claim; however, some international human rights groups and members of
the opposition-in-exile dispute it.
At the end of the 1994 civil war, the President pardoned nearly all
who had fought against the central Government, including military personnel
and most leaders of the unrecognized DRY. The Government denied amnesty
to the 16 most senior leaders of the DRY (1 of whom is presumed dead),
who fled abroad. The DRY leaders are subject to arrest if they return.
In 1997 and 1998, the so-called "16" were tried in absentia
on various charges, including forming a secessionist government, conspiracy,
and forming a separate military. All but two were found guilty, and
in March 1998, a judge sentenced five of the defendants to death and
3 others to 10 years in jail. Six persons received suspended sentences,
and two were acquitted. Many opposition figures have urged the President
to issue an amnesty for those who received sentences in the interest
of promoting reconciliation between the north and south. The President
has stated that it is up to the judicial system to pass judgment. Defense
attorneys appealed to a higher court, but by year's end the court had
made no judgment on whether it would hear the appeal.
With the encouragement of the Government, in June and July, eight prominent
southern journalists who fled the country during the 1994 civil war
returned and have resumed their careers (see Section 2.a.). A number
of southern military officers and their families who fled during the
civil war reportedly returned in September.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence
Despite constitutional provisions against government interference with
privacy, security forces routinely search homes and private offices,
monitor telephones, read personal mail, and otherwise intrude into personal
matters for alleged security reasons. Such activities are conducted
without legally issued warrants or judicial supervision. Security forces
regularly monitor telephone conversations and interfere with the telephone
service of government critics and opponents. Security forces sometimes
detain relatives of suspects while the suspect is being sought (see
Section 1.d.). Government informers monitor meetings and assemblies
(see Section 2.b.).
The law prohibits arrests or the serving of a subpoena between the
hours of sundown and dawn. However, persons suspected of crimes in some
instances are taken from their homes in the middle of the night, without
search warrants. Jews traditionally face social (but not legal) restrictions
on their residence and their employment (see Section 5).
According to a 1995 Ministry of Interior regulation, no citizen may
marry a foreigner without Interior Ministry permission (see Section
5). This regulation does not carry the force of law and appears to be
enforced irregularly. However, some human rights groups have raised
concerns about the regulation.
The Government reportedly blocks sexually explicit web sites, but does
not block politically oriented sites (see Section 2.a.). The Government
claims that it does not monitor Internet usage, but some persons suspect
their e-mail messages are read by security authorities. There have been
no reports that the Government has taken action against Internet users.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press "within
the limits of the law;" however, the Government influences the
media and restricts press freedom. Some security officials attempt to
influence press coverage by threatening, harassing, and detaining journalists.
Although most citizens are uninhibited in their private discussions
of domestic and foreign policies, some are cautious in public, fearing
harassment for criticism of the Government. The Penal Code criminalizes,
with fines and up to 5 years in jail, "the humiliation of the State,
the Cabinet, or parliamentary institutions," the publication of
"false information" that "threatens public order or the
public interest," and "false stories intended to damage Arab
and friendly countries or their relations with Yemen."
The relative freedom of the press permitted between unification (1990)
and the civil war (1994) has not been reestablished. An atmosphere of
government pressure on independent and political party journals continues
at a higher level than before the civil war. The international human
rights group the Committee to Protect Journalists continued to criticize
the Government for restrictions, harassment, and arbitrary detention
directed at journalists. However, in June with the Government's permission
and encouragement, eight prominent southern journalists who fled the
country after the 1994 civil war returned to the country and resumed
The Ministry of Information influences the media through its control
of most printing presses, subsidies to certain newspapers, and its ownership
of the country's sole television and radio outlets. Only one newspaper,
the thrice-weekly Aden independent al-Ayyam, owns its own press. The
Government selects the items to be covered in news broadcasts, and it
often does not permit broadcast reporting critical of the Government.
However, during the 1999 presidential election campaign, the media extensively
covered both candidates and reported in full the many critical comments
made by the President's opponent. The Government televises parliamentary
debates, but it may edit them selectively to remove criticism.
Press Law regulations specify that newspapers must apply annually to
the Government for licensing renewal, and that they must show continuing
evidence of about $4,375 (700,000 riyals) in operating capital. Some
journalists claim that the regulations were designed to drive some opposition
newspapers out of business.
Although newspapers ostensibly are permitted to criticize the Government,
journalists at times censor themselves, especially when writing on such
sensitive issues as government policies toward the southern governorates,
relations with Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments, and official
corruption. The penalties for exceeding these self-imposed limits may
be arrest for libel, dismissal from employment, or extrajudicial harassment.
Editors in chief legally are responsible for everything printed in their
newspapers, regardless of authorship. Some journalists have reported
being threatened by security officials to change the tone and substance
of their reporting. Journalists must have a permit to travel abroad,
although there were no reports that this restriction was enforced during
the year (see Section 2.d.). Following what it deemed was irresponsible
reporting on an alleged military helicopter crash, in May the Ministry
of Information issued a circular to local newspapers and magazines prohibiting
publication of information or news pertaining to the armed forces before
"consulting" with the Ministry of Defense.
During the year, journalists continued to be detained for questioning
for short periods of time for writing articles that were critical of
the Government or that the Government considered sensitive, primarily
issues involving Saudi Arabia. However, the decline in the number of
such incidents from 1999 continued, and most individual journalists
and the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate agree that extralegal governmental
harassment is less of a problem than it was in the past. Some journalists
claim that most harassment comes from the police, in particular the
CID, and no longer the PSO. Cases and ongoing trials involving journalists
often are not resolved formally, but rather are settled through unofficial
agreements between the Government and the journalists, or languish indefinitely.
In January a Sana'a court found al-Shumu' newspaper guilty of libeling
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek and ordered it to suspend publication
for a month. The article in question, which was published in October
2000, accused Mubarak of not being adequately responsive to the plight
of the Palestinians. Al-Shumu's editor in chief, Seif al-Hadhri was
also fined $59 (10,000 riyals). In April al-Hadhri was detained for
questioning by the PSO. In May, al-Shumu' again was closed for a month
following its publication of allegations of corruption in the Ministry
of Education. The court, finding no basis in fact for his allegations,
also fined al-Hadhri $6,471 (1.1 million riyals). Al-Hadhri appealed
the verdict, but the appeals court not only upheld the lower court's
decision, but also gave al-Hadhri a (suspended) 6 months prison sentence
and banned him from practicing journalism for 10 months. Al-Hadhri again
appealed, this time to the Supreme Court; the case was pending at year's
In May the PSO detained journalist Hassan al-Zaidi and held him incommunicado
for 16 days, at times in solitary confinement, in the detention center
under the PSO headquarters in Sana'a. Authorities never formally charged
al-Zaidi with any crime, but told him that he had "exceeded the
red lines." In addition to being a reporter for the Yemen Times,
al-Zaidi is a member of the Islamist opposition party Union of Popular
Forces (UPF) and belongs to the al-Zaidi tribe, which has been responsible
for kidnapings of foreigners and other destabilizing activity. In September
the PSO in Marib arrested him again, and held him for about 2 weeks.
At the time of his second arrest, al-Zaidi's Marib-based tribe was holding
a Western diplomat whom it had kidnaped in July. Al-Zaidi denied knowledge
of or complicity in kidnapings or other acts, claiming that security
authorities had detained him because they wanted to punish the al-Zaidi
tribe, because of his contacts with foreigners and because he had published
interviews with kidnap victims. Al-Zaidi also claimed that when members
of his tribe kidnaped a Swedish national in Marib governorate in 2000,
security forces surrounded his house and impounded his car, which they
have yet to return.
In June the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's 1997 decision to suspend
publication of al-Shoura, the newspaper of the Islamist opposition party
UPF, for 6 months for slandering an important sheikh and leader of the
Islaah party. The Supreme Court also upheld the lower court's sentence
of $588 (100,000 riyals) fine for the newspaper and suspension for the
editor in chief (who died in 1999). The Court also sentenced the editor
and the author of the article (the editor's brother, Abd al-Jabbar Saad),
to flogging with 80 strokes of a lash and 1 year journalistic suspension.
Al-Shoura's new editor criticized the verdict, claiming that he believed
that mediation and a published apology effectively had ended the case
in 1999. The sentence had not been carried out by year's end; Saad continues
to practice journalism. In May Al-Shoura resumed publication as Sawt
al-Shoura, which the Ministry of Information recognizes as a new and
In February 1999, the Ministry of Information closed al-Shoura as well
as a new, competing version of the same newspaper. The second version
of al-Shoura appeared following an ideological split in the UPF. Under
the Press Law, it is illegal for more than one newspaper to use the
same name. Some journalists allege that the Government financed the
second al-Shoura in order to create a pretext to shut down the outspokenly
critical original al-Shoura. A court allowed the original al-Shoura
to resume publication and upheld the suspension of the second al-Shoura,
but an appeals court later ordered the original newspaper to cease publication
pending the Supreme Court's decision as to which faction had the right
to al-Shoura's name. The original al-Shoura resumed publication in August
2000; at year's end, the Supreme Court had still not issued a verdict.
In June Sawt al-Mu'arada, the official publication of the National
Opposition Council, one of the country's two coalitions of opposition
parties, resumed publication after being inactive for 5 years.
Two cases involving articles that criticized the Government of Saudi
Arabia, one from 2000 and one from 1999, were pending at year's end.
In February 2000, the Ministry of Information referred a complaint from
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Sana'a Court against Dr. Qasim
Sallam, the secretary general of the opposition Arab Socialist Baath
Party, and the party's newspaper, al-Ihya al-Arabi, for an article Sallam
wrote entitled "The Danger-dom of Saudi Arabia," which alleged
that there were supporters of Israel in the Saudi leadership. In August
1999, Jamal Ahmed Amer, a journalist for al-Wahdawi newspaper and member
of the opposition Nasserist Party, was detained and held incommunicado
for 6 days for writing an article critical of Yemeni-Saudi relations
and considered offensive to the Saudi royal family. Al-Wahdawi's editor,
Abdelaziz Sultan, was called in for questioning. In February 2000, Amer
was tried and found guilty of "harming national interests"
and "publishing an article not based on accurate documents."
The judge suspended publication of al-Wahdawi for one month, banned
Amer from practicing journalism for one year, and fined Amer $31 (5,000
riyals). The editors of al-Wahdawi and al-Ihya al-Arabi claimed that
the actions taken against them by the Ministry of Information were a
direct result of pressure by the Government of Saudi Arabia. Amer's
lawyer appealed the case. Amer continues to write for another newspaper,
al-Usbu'. He has filed a suit against the Minister of Interior; this
suit also remained pending at year's end.
In May 2000, Hisham Ba Sharahil, the editor of al-Ayyam, was charged
with "instigating the use of force and terrorism" and "publishing
false information" for publishing an interview with Islamic militant
Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Section 1.e.) in August 1999. He also was charged
with "insulting public institutions" for publishing an article
critical of the Director of Aden Security. The trial was suspended to
allow Ba Sharahil to undergo medical treatment. In February 2000, Ba
Sharahil also was called in for questioning in connection with an article
published in al-Ayyam criticizing the Aden municipal government's allowing
the destruction of a building that once had been a synagogue. He again
was called in for questioning in April 2000 following publication in
al-Ayyam of a letter of support for Ba Sharahil in his dispute with
the Director of Aden Security from the secessionist Movement of Self-Determination
for South Arabia (HATAM). Ba Sharahil's case was ongoing at year's end,
but in abeyance pending his recovery from illness.
In August 2000, Saif al-Hadhri, the editor in chief of al-Shumu newspaper,
was convicted of libel in connection with a series of articles reporting
high-level corruption in the Ministries of Electricity, Agriculture,
Education, and Finance. The judge fined al-Hadhri $437 (70,000 riyals)
and suspended him for 7 months. Al-Hadhri also was ordered to pay the
Minister and Deputy Minister of Education's legal fees and $12,500 (2
million riyals) in compensation. Al-Hadhri appealed the judgment; the
case remained pending at year's end. In July 2000, al-Hadhri was abducted
from his office for a day by 30 armed men; he claimed they were security
In August 1999, journalist and lawyer Nabil al-Amoudi was brought before
the Abyan preliminary court for writing an article critical of the Government
and the human rights situation in the country. The case remained pending
at year's end.
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate defends freedom of the press and publicizes
human rights concerns. For example, in February they organized a seminar
regarding legislation pertaining to journalism. Critics claim that the
syndicate is ineffective because it has too many nonjournalist members
who support government policy. In 1999 several independent and opposition
party journalists formed a rival union, the Committee for the Defense
of Journalists, under the leadership of Hisham Ba Sharahil, the publisher
of al-Ayyam newspaper, to defend more vigorously journalists harassed
by the Government.
Customs officials confiscate foreign publications regarded as pornographic
or objectionable because of religious or political content. In April
PSO officials in Taiz detained Faysal Said Fara'a, the director of a
private cultural center, for a day of questioning following his alleged
receipt of banned books dealing with the opposition. There were no reports
during the year that the Ministry of Information delayed the distribution
of international Arabic-language dailies in an effort to decrease their
sales in the country, as had occurred in previous years. However, authorities
monitor foreign publications, banning those that they deem harmful to
national interests. For example, in 2000 the owner of a Sana'a bookstore
was arrested by the PSO for selling banned copies of an edition of the
London-based Arabic magazine al-Magalah, which featured a cover story
on President Saleh's son Ahmed, the Commander of the Republican Guard.
An author must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture to publish
a book. Most books are approved, but the process is time-consuming for
the author. The author must submit copies of the book to the Ministry.
Officials at the National Library must read and endorse the text. Then
it is submitted to a special committee for final approval. If a book
is not deemed appropriate for publication, the Ministry simply does
not issue a decision. Publishers usually do not deal with an author
who has not yet obtained a permit.
Internet use has increased significantly. An estimated 30,400 persons
use the Internet, and 7,600 persons subscribe to it. There are over
70 Internet cafes in Sana'a and approximately
30 in other cities. The Government does not impose restrictions on
Internet use, but most persons claim that equipment and subscriptions
costs are prohibitively high. Teleyemen, a parastatal company under
the Ministry of Telecommunications, is the country's sole Internet service
provider. The Government does not block politically oriented web sites;
mowj.com, the web site of the Yemeni National Opposition Front, which
had been the only political site blocked by the Government, apparently
has ceased operating (see Section 1.f.).
Academic freedom is restricted to some extent because of the extreme
politicization of university campuses. A majority of professors and
students align themselves with either the ruling GPC party or the opposition
Islaah party. Each group closely monitors the activities of the other.
Top administrative positions usually are awarded to political allies
of these two major parties. There were several clashes between GPC-
and Islaah-affiliated students during the year, but no serious violence.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however,
the Government limited this right in practice. The Government claims
that it bans and disrupts some demonstrations to prevent them from degenerating
into riots and violence. The Government requires a permit for demonstrations,
but it issues them routinely. Government informers monitor meetings
and assemblies. The opposition claims that the Government sometimes
detains activists for questioning in order to prevent them from organizing
demonstrations, for example, in April 2000, the Government held 19 opposition
activists in Abyan governorate for questioning for several days to prevent
a demonstration. Draft provisions of a Police Law enacted in 2000 would
have permitted police to open fire on gatherings of five or more persons
if police suspected imminent violence or criminal activity; however,
the provisions were removed after a campaign by human rights organizations,
opposition political parties, and the press (see Section 1.d.).
In April a demonstrator was killed and another wounded when a soldier
fired into a crowd protesting a zoning decision in the al-Dalah governorate.
The dispute reportedly centered around a local official's decision to
prevent a resident from building an extension on his house. According
to press reports, the homeowner had obtained an official permit from
municipal officials to build the extension and refused to stop work.
Security officials were dispatched to enforce the official's decision,
a crowd gathered, and tensions escalated. After the shooting, there
was a brief spontaneous demonstration. Authorities reportedly arrested
the soldier, but there was no information regarding whether he was disciplined.
Residents of al-Dalah long have resisted central government authority,
and the governorate for many years has been the scene of frequent (and
at times violent) clashes between often armed residents and security
In October police in Hajja governorate broke up a Nasserist Party-organized
student demonstration protesting U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan.
Several of the organizers were detained briefly for questioning; it
is unclear whether they had a permit.
There were a number of small, peaceful demonstrations during the year,
most of which were to protest U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East.
In February a small group of Baathist demonstrators in Sana'a marched
to U.N. Development Program headquarters in Sana'a and presented a letter
condemning U.S. actions against the Palestinian and Iraqi persons. There
were small pro-Palestinian demonstrations in April in Taiz governorate.
In Sana'a in May, there was an "oratorical festival" at the
Palestinian Embassy to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of "al-Nakbah,"
the 1948 Palestinian defeat. In September there were several demonstrations
in Sana'a and other cities commemorating the first anniversary of the
al-Aqsa Intifada. Also in September, students in Taiz governorate demonstrated
against an increase in university fees. In October thousands of persons
in Amran governorate protested peacefully against U.S. actions in Afghanistan;
during the month, there were additional small demonstrations in other
The Constitution provides for the freedom of association, and the Government
generally respects this right in practice. Associations must obtain
an operating license from the Ministry of Social Affairs or the Ministry
of Culture, which usually is a routine matter. Government informants
monitor meetings and assemblies.
The Government cooperates with NGO's, although NGO's complain that
there is a lack of response to their requests from government officials.
The Government's ability to be responsive is limited in part by a lack
of material and human resources. In January the Parliament passed the
controversial Law for Associations and Foundations, which regulates
the formation and activities of NGO's (see Section 2.b.). The Government
introduced the proposed law in 1998, but as it typically does with Government
initiatives with which it disagrees, Parliament indirectly asserted
its legislative prerogative by refusing to take action. While more liberal
than the law it was designed to replace, the 1998 proposal still contained
significant limitations on NGO's. For example, the draft law would have
made it illegal for NGO's to seek and obtain foreign funding, required
that all NGO's be members of a national federation of NGO's, and prohibited
nonmember participation in NGO deliberations or administration. Claiming
that the bill, if passed, would severely restrict the development of
civil society, a group of human rights activists and journalists vigorously
campaigned against it. Parliament finally passed the new NGO law, but
removed all the most problematic provisions.
All political parties must be registered in accordance with the Political
Parties Law, which stipulates that each party must have at least 75
founders and 2,500 members (see Section 3).
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution declares that Islam is the official religion and also
provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects
this right in practice; however, there are some restrictions. Followers
of other religions are free to worship according to their beliefs and
to wear religiously distinctive ornaments or dress; however, the Government
forbids conversions, requires permission for the construction of new
places of worship, and prohibits non-Muslims from proselytizing and
holding elected office. The Government does not designate religion on
passports or identity cards. The Constitution states that Shari'a is
the source of all legislation.
Under Islam the conversion of a Muslim to another religion is considered
apostasy, a crime punishable by death. There were no reports of cases
in which the crime was charged or prosecuted by government authorities.
In January 2000, the director of the Aden office of the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) received a report that authorities arrested a Somali
refugee, who allegedly had converted from Islam to Christianity after
his arrival in the country, on charges of apostasy. The UNHCR's investigation
found that police in Aden previously had detained the refugee on criminal
charges in Aden and at the UNHCR's al-Jahin camp. Although the refugee
was registered with the UNHCR under a Christian name, he maintained
an address in Sana'a under a Muslim name, was married to a Muslim woman,
and possessed an Islamic marriage certificate. The UNHCR believed that
authorities detained the refugee on criminal rather than religious grounds.
The refugee was not charged formally and his trial was canceled. Authorities
remanded him to immigration detention, then released him in July 2000.
With the Government's knowledge, the UNHCR arranged for the refugee
to be resettled in New Zealand; he and his family departed the country
in August 2000.
Official government policy does not prohibit or prescribe punishment
for the possession of non-Islamic religious literature. However, there
are unconfirmed reports that foreigners, on occasion, have been harassed
by police for possessing such literature. In addition some members of
the security forces occasionally censor the mail of Christian clergy
who minister to the foreign community, ostensibly to prevent proselytizing.
There are unconfirmed reports that some police, without the authorization
or knowledge of their superiors, on occasion have harassed and detained
persons suspected of apostasy in order to compel them to renounce their
The Government does not allow the building of new non-Muslim public
places of worship without permission; however, in 1998 the country established
diplomatic relations with the Vatican and agreed to the construction
and operation of a "Christian center" in Sana'a. The Papal
Nuncio, resident in Kuwait, presented his credentials to the Government
in March. The country's ambassador to Italy was accredited to the Vatican
in July 1999. President Saleh paid an official visit to the Vatican
at the time of his state visit to Italy in April 2000. Weekly services
for Catholic, Protestant, and Ethiopian Christians are held in the auditorium
of a private company in Sana'a without government interference. Christian
church services are held regularly in other cities without harassment
in private homes or facilities such as schools, and these facilities
appear to accommodate the small numbers involved.
Public schools provide instruction in Islam but not in other religions.
However, almost all non-Muslims are foreigners who attend private schools.
In 2000 the Government suspended its policy (enacted earlier that same
year) of allowing Yemeni-origin Israeli passport holders to travel to
Yemen on laissez-passer documents. However, Yemeni, Israeli, and other
Jews may travel freely to and within Yemen on non-Israeli passports.
The Government has taken steps to prevent the politicization of mosques
in an attempt to curb extremism. This includes the monitoring of mosques
for sermons that incite violence or other political statements that
it considers harmful to public security. Private Islamic organizations
may maintain ties to pan-Islamic organizations and, in the past, have
operated private schools, but the Government monitors their activities.
In May the Government mandated the implementation of a 1992 law to unify
educational curriculums and administration of all publicly funded schools.
Publicly funded Islamic schools will be absorbed into the national system.
This process had begun by year's end, but the full implementation of
the law is ongoing.
Following unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, owners of property
previously expropriated by the Communist government of the former People's
Democratic Republic of Yemen, including religious organizations, were
invited to seek restitution of their property. However, implementation
of the process, including for religious institutions, has been extremely
limited, and very few properties have been returned to any previous
A small bomb blasted a 12-foot hole in the wall of Christ Church in
Aden on New Year's Day; there were no reported injuries. A few weeks
later, the authorities arrested five individuals, whom they believe
are linked to extremist Islamic groups. Their trial began in April but
had not concluded by year's end (see Section 1.e.). Also in January,
in the village of Dhabyan in Amran governorate, an armed (Muslim) individual
opened fire on worshipers during evening prayers at the local mosque.
Four men were killed and 17 wounded, 7 critically. The shootings appeared
to be criminally rather than religiously motivated.
Nearly all of the country's once sizable Jewish population have emigrated.
There are no legal restrictions on the few hundred Jews who remain,
although there are traditional restrictions on places of residence and
choice of employment (see Section 5).
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration
The Government places some limits on freedom of movement. In general
the Government does not obstruct domestic travel, although the army
and security forces maintain checkpoints on major roads. There were
a few reports during the year that security forces at checkpoints killed
or injured persons whom they believed were engaging in criminal activity
and resisting arrest (see Section 1.a.).
In certain areas, armed tribesmen occasionally man checkpoints alongside
military or security officials, and subject travelers to physical harassment,
bribe demands, or theft.
The Government does not routinely obstruct foreign travel or the right
to emigrate and return. However, journalists must have a permit to travel
abroad. There were no reports that the restriction on journalists was
enforced during the year (see Section 2.a.). Women must obtain permission
from a male relative before applying for a passport or departing the
Immigrants and refugees traveling within the country often are required
by security officials at government checkpoints to show that they possess
resident status or refugee identification cards.
During the year, in an intensified effort to address terrorism and
perceived religious extremism, the Government enforced existing laws
that previously had been applied only erratically, and deported foreigners
who were in the country illegally or whom it suspected of inciting violence
or engaging in criminal acts. The new initiative was not applied to
refugees and there were no reports of due process violations.
The law does not include provisions for granting refugee or asylee
status in accordance with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. However, the
Government continues to grant refugee status on a group basis to Somalis
who have arrived in Yemen after 1991.
In 2000 the Government offered asylum to 8,043 Somalis, who fled the
fighting in that country. This brought the total number of registered
Somali refugees in the country to 56,524. The Government also cooperated
with the UNHCR in assisting refugees from Eritrea (2,560 persons), Ethiopia
(1,203 persons), and various other countries (252 persons). The Government
permitted the UNHCR to monitor the situation of an estimated 2,000 Iraqis
Approximately 42,532 Somali refugees have been integrated into society
and no longer are receiving food or financial assistance from the UNHCR.
However, they remain eligible for medical treatment at UNHCR facilities
in Aden and Sana'a. In addition the UNHCR provides small loans to refugee
women who wish to initiate income-generating activities. Somali-language
education is provided in urban areas of Aden.
The UNHCR provides food and medical assistance for up to 14,265 Somalis
and Ethiopians at the new al-Kharaz refugee camp in Lahaj governorate.
(Construction of the al-Kharaz camp was completed in December 2000;
the UNHCR relocated all refugees to al-Haraz from the old al-Jahin camp
in Abyan governorate in June, and al-Jahin is now closed.) Children
receive schooling in the camp, and adults are eligible for vocational
The UNHCR, in coordination with the Government, issues identification
cards to Somali refugees. The UNHCR is discussing with the Government
the registration of Somali refugees, who are currently granted refugee
status on a prima facie basis upon their arrival in the country. Other
nationalities must apply for refugee status at UNHCR's offices in Sana'a
or Aden. If accepted, they are issued a mandate refugee certificate,
which is respected by the Government. In January the Government established
the National Committee for Refugee Affairs, which is composed of the
Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, the Immigration Authority,
and the Political Security Organization.
The UNHCR reports that the Government consults with it prior to returning
illegal immigrants to their countries of origin in order to avoid the
involuntary repatriation of refugees with a credible fear of persecution.
There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where
they feared persecution. The UNHCR facilitated the voluntary repatriation
of some Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees, as well as the voluntary return
of 395 Somali refugees to areas of Somalia that are considered safe.
Additionally, the UNHCR in Yemen resettles vulnerable refugees in collaboration
with several foreign governments.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government;
however, there are significant limitations in practice. The Government
by law is accountable to the Parliament; however, the Parliament is
not yet an effective counterweight to executive authority. Decisionmaking
and real political power still rest in the hands of the executive branch,
particularly the President. In addition the Constitution prohibits the
establishment of parties that are contrary to Islam, oppose the goals
of the Yemeni revolution, or violate the country's international commitments.
The President appoints the Prime Minister, who forms the Government.
The cabinet consists of 35 ministers. Parliament is elected by universal
adult suffrage; the first such election was held in 1993. International
observers judged the parliamentary elections (held in 1997) as "reasonably
free and fair," despite some problems associated with the voting.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President and leader of the GPC, was elected
to a 5-year term in the country's first nation-wide direct presidential
election in September 1999, winning 96.3 percent of the vote. The Constitution
provides that the President be elected by popular vote from at least
two candidates endorsed by Parliament, and the election was generally
free and fair; however, there were some problems, including the lack
of a credible voter registration list. In addition the President was
not opposed by a truly competitive candidate because the candidate selected
by the leftist opposition coalition did not receive from the GPC-dominated
Parliament the minimum number of votes required to run (the other opposition
party chose not to run its own candidate, despite its seats in Parliament).
The President's sole opponent was a member of the GPC. There was no
significant violence associated with the election.
Although the Constitution permits Parliament to initiate legislation,
to date it has not done so. Parliament generally is relegated to debating
policies that the Government already has submitted, although it increasingly
and successfully revises or blocks draft legislation submitted by the
Government. In addition the Government routinely consults senior Parliamentary
leaders when it drafts important national legislation. Despite the fact
that the President's party enjoys an absolute majority, Parliament has
rejected or delayed action on major legislation introduced by the Government
and has forced significant modification. The Parliament also has criticized
strongly the Government for some actions, including the lifting of subsidies
and other economic reform measures mandated by the International Monetary
Fund (IMF). Ministers frequently are called to Parliament to defend
actions, policies, or proposed legislation, although they may and sometimes
do refuse to appear. Parliamentarians at times are sharply critical
during these sessions. Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff attend
foreign NGO-sponsored training workshops designed to increase their
independence and effectiveness. Following a constitutional referendum
in February, the President no longer has the authority to introduce
legislation and promulgate laws by decree when Parliament is not in
In a national referendum held in February, citizens approved several
amendments to the Constitution, including amendments that would extend
the terms of Members of Parliament from 4 to 6 years and the President
from 5 to 7 years, allow the President to dissolve Parliament without
a referendum in rare instances, and abolish the President's ability
to issue decrees while Parliament was in recess. Another approved amendment
transformed the 59-member Consultative Council, an advisory board to
the President, into a 111-member Shura Council. The new Council, like
the old, advises the President on a range of issues and consists of
presidentially appointed members chaired by a former prime minister.
However, unlike its predecessor, which had no constitutional role, the
Shura Council has limited legislative and candidate approval powers.
Formal government authority is centralized in Sana'a; many citizens,
especially in urban areas, complain about the inability of local and
governorate entities to make policy or resource decisions. Responding
to these concerns, in January 2000, the Parliament passed the government-submitted
Local Authority Law. The law, considered by the Government as an important
part of its ongoing democratization program, decentralizes authority
by establishing locally elected district and governorate councils. The
councils are headed by government-appointed governors. The first elections
for the councils were held concurrently with the constitutional referendum
In some governorates, tribal leaders exercise considerable discretion
in the interpretation and enforcement of the law. Central government
authority in these areas often is weak.
In general the elections and referendum appeared to be free and fair;
however, there were several problems. Approximately 28 persons were
killed and 47 wounded in election-related violence. On February 25,
a reported shootout between GPC and Islaah supporters in Ibb governorate
left 6 persons dead and 10 injured. In two separate incidents in Taiz
governorate on February 21, four persons were killed in the GPC-Islaah
exchange of gunfire, and four security officials were wounded when a
dispute over vote counting reportedly turned violent. There were some
reports of fraud, as well as logistical problems in voting procedures.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on claims that the Supreme Elections
Committee issued a directive advising and monitoring candidates to prevent
campaigning for a "no" vote in the referendum; however, this
allegation could not be confirmed. There were unconfirmed reports that
some authorities harassed opposition candidates during the time leading
up to the elections.
The multiparty system remains weak. The GPC dominates the Parliament,
and Islaah is the only other party of significance. All parties must
be registered in accordance with the Political Parties Law of 1991,
which stipulates that each party must have at least 75 founders and
2,500 members. Some oppositionists contend that they are unable to organize
new parties because of the prohibitively high legal requirements regarding
the minimum number of members and leaders. Twelve parties participated
in the 1997 elections, compared with 16 in 1993. The YSP and several
smaller parties boycotted the 1997 elections, leading to lower voter
turnout in the south. These same parties also boycotted the country's
first nationwide direct presidential election in September 1999, but
they returned to active political life by participating in the February
local elections and constitutional referendum.
The Government provides financial support to political parties, including
a small stipend to publish their own newspapers. However, the YSP claims
that the Government has yet to return the assets that it seized from
the party during the 1994 civil war.
An extensive cabinet change in April expanded the Cabinet from 24 to
35 ministers, restructured existing ministries, and created several
new ministries to place greater emphasis on important national issues,
such as population, the environment, and human rights. The new government
program focuses on domestic reform, with particular attention to human
development, including education, economic development, electoral reform,
political decentralization, judicial reform, and human rights.
Although women vote and hold office, cultural norms and religious customs
often limit these rights, and the numbers of women in Government and
politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population.
Two women were elected to the Parliament in 1997 (the same number as
in 1993), and an increasing number hold senior leadership positions
in the Government or in the GPC. The country's first female minister
was appointed in April (see Sections 4 and 5), and 35 women were elected
to the local councils. Voter registration of women is less than half
that of men.
Many Akhdam, a small ethnic minority who may be descendants of African
slaves, are not permitted to participate in the political process, mainly
due to their inability to obtain citizenship. There no longer are any
credible reports that citizen members of religious minorities are not
permitted to participate in the political process.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental
Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The concept of local nongovernmental human rights organizations is
relatively new, with the first groups forming only in the years since
unification. During the year several groups held workshops and other
activities without government interference and often with government
The Government cooperates with NGO's, although NGO's complain that
there is a lack of response to their requests from government officials.
The Government's ability to be responsive is limited in part by a lack
of material and human resources (see Section 2.b.).
The Taiz-based HRITC, perhaps the country's most respected domestic
human rights NGO, places particular emphasis on education and NGO training.
During the year, the HRITC sponsored numerous public lectures, training
workshops, and conferences, and participated in several meetings of
the international human rights community. For example, in January it
conducted a workshop on public participation in the electoral process
to encourage and educate citizens on the February local elections and
constitutional referendum. In March the HRITC organized a seminar to
develop ways to address the legal and other problems of female prisoners
in Taiz Central Prison, an initiative it hopes to expand to include
other cities (see Section 1.c.). In February and May, it conducted NGO
management training workshops. In October it held a forum to discuss
women's rights. The HRITC publishes the quarterly human rights journal
Our Rights and regularly prints and distributes a brochure entitled
"Know Your Rights." Several donors have supported the HRITC.
The HRITC did not conduct any investigations into alleged human rights
abuses during the year.
The Sana'a-based NGO Forum for a Civil Society focuses on human rights
within the context of establishing a legal framework for prosecuting
violators and helping to reconcile draft legislation that is inconsistent
with the Government's human rights policy or stated responsibilities.
The forum was instrumental in raising public opinion and opposition
to problems within the draft NGO and police laws (see Section 2.b.).
The forum also is reviewing the Personal Status and Civil Procedure
Laws to investigate how the laws affect women's rights (see Section
5). The forum also is involved in anticorruption endeavors. The group
publishes the monthly Al-Qistas.
In June the reenergized Yemen Institute for Developing Democracy (YIDD),
which had been relatively inactive in the past few years, organized
the Yemeni Democratic Forum, an ad hoc group of political party, government,
and NGO officials to debate and discuss the Government's draft Elections
Law. The YIDD's objective for creating the group was to create a mechanism
that would promote democratic participation and government-civil society
In 2000 the Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, a lawyers'
group formed in 1999 by attorney and parliamentarian Mohamed Naji Alao,
discovered that several illegal private prisons were being operated
at government facilities in Sana'a. He reported them to the President,
who immediately ordered the unlawful prisons closed and offenders arrested
(see Section 1.c.).
The Aden-based Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Liberties and
Human Rights continued to suffer from a lack of funds, which limited
its activities. It continued to publicize human rights abuses, particularly
in the south.
During the year, al-Nushataa, or The Activists, a group formed in 1999
by former members of the Yemeni Human Rights Organization (YHRO), with
financial assistance from a foreign embassy, established a human rights
journal, which published its first edition in April. As it did in 2000,
al-Nushataa also organized a children's parliament and other activities
to familiarize secondary school children with electoral procedures and
The National Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development (NCHRDD)
participated with other organizations in prison inspection tours.
During the year, several NGO's, often with government support, focused
on prison reform (see Section 1.c.). In addition to the March HRITC
workshop, in April the al-Afif Young Girls Forum organized a seminar
aimed at improving conditions in the country's women's prisons. In June
under the patronage of the new Minister of State for Human Rights and
in association with the International Human Rights Legal Group and the
Arab human rights forum al-Shakiq conducted a 3-day program on protecting
female prisoners' rights. Women's rights activists attended the program
from Tunisia, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia, and the United States, as well
In 1998 and 1999, Penal Reform International (PRI), a London-based
NGO, conducted a fact-finding mission to Yemen and, with the support
of a foreign embassy and the Government and with the assistance of the
HRITC, organized prison management training workshops for prison and
security officials. PRI identified several issues of concern, including
the mistreatment of prisoners, lack of education and resources for prison
officials, and unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.
AI, HRW, the Parliament of the European Union, and the Committee to
Protect Journalists observe the country closely. The ICRC maintains
a resident representative. The Government has given these groups broad
access to government officials, records, refugee camps, and prisons.
The Government had acknowledged some abuses that were alleged in a 1997
AI report and rejected other allegations. AI's follow-up report, issued
in July 1999, criticized the Government for not keeping its promise
to investigate some of these abuses. The Government claims that it responded
to AI and passed the results of its investigations to the UNCHR, but
that the information the organization provided was inadequate for effective
investigation and conclusive action.
The Yemeni Human Rights Organization (YHRO), which was founded by the
Government, is headquartered in Sana'a, with branches in seven other
cities. Oppositionists as well as some human rights experts have viewed
its findings as unobjective. The YHRO appeared to be inactive during
The Supreme National Committee for Human Rights (SNCHR), which was
formed in 1997 and reported to the Deputy Prime Minister who is also
Minister of Foreign Affairs, was dissolved in June, reconstituted, and
then placed under the authority of the new Minister of State for Human
Rights. The SNCHR had been responsible for ensuring that the country
met its obligations with respect to implementing international human
rights conventions and investigating specific instances of abuse. The
committee viewed as its highest priority education as a means to effect
cultural change. It undertook several human rights educational projects,
including incorporating human rights education into secondary school
curriculums and providing human rights workshops for police officers
and other security officials. The committee was less active in investigating
specific cases of abuse. Some observers believe the dissolution of the
SNCHR and the reassignment of its experienced staff will impede human
rights progress and delay action while a new committee begins to function
within government bureaucracy after a complicated transition. Others
believe that human rights issues will be more effectively addressed
by activists and professionals in the field as opposed to Ministry of
Foreign Affairs personnel.
The Government created a new Human Rights Ministry in April. The country's
first Minister of State for Human Rights, Dr. Wahibah Fare'e, is a prominent
women's rights activist and the founder of Queen Arwa University. She
is the country's first female minister. Dr. Fare'e has identified women's
rights, the rights of children and persons with disabilities, and prison
reform as her priorities. Since her appointment, she has attended a
number of human rights conferences and workshops.
In October 2000, the Human Rights Committee of the President's Consultative
Council (now the Shoura Council), in cooperation with the NCHRDD, inspected
several police stations in Sana'a to determine whether police were following
proper procedures and to develop recommendations for the Minister of
Interior regarding training for police officers (see Section 1.c.).
The Parliament's human rights committee participated in prison inspections
in Hodeidah, Hadramaut, Abyan, and Lahaj governorates during the year.
The committee publicized its findings and developed a set of reform
recommendations for the Government. The committee's chairman claims
that he would prefer to increase the activities of the committee, especially
in the area of press freedoms, but cites lack of official and financial
support as constraints. The committee has no authority except to issue
The Committee to Combat Torture is composed of 100 senior parliamentarians
and party leaders, including some opposition members, but apparently
was inactive during the year.
The Center for Future Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Islaah
Party, issues an annual report on human rights practices, providing
a wide-ranging overview of human rights. There is little follow-up to
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The Constitution states that "all citizens are equal in general
rights and duties," and that society "is based on social solidarity,
which is based on justice, freedom, and equality according to the law;"
however, discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and, to a lesser
extent, religion, exists. Entrenched cultural attitudes often affect
women's ability to enjoy equal rights.
The law provides for protection against violence against women; however,
such provisions rarely are enforced. Although spousal abuse reportedly
is common, it generally is undocumented. Violence against women and
children is considered a family affair and usually is not reported to
the police. In the country's traditional society, an abused woman is
expected to take her complaint to a male relative (rather than the authorities),
who should intercede on her behalf or provide her sanctuary if required.
One survey conducted by Sana'a University and the Dutch Ministry of
Justice found that nearly 50 percent of the 120 women interviewed stated
that they had been beaten; 1 in 5 claimed to have been threatened with
death. Despite the high incidence rates reported, only 3 percent of
women had ever sought help from an outsider or the police. The only
institutionalized aid program for victims is a small shelter for battered
women in Aden.
Rape is prohibited by law; however, it is a widespread problem.
The press and women's rights activists only recently have begun to
investigate or report on violations of women's rights. NGO-sponsored
conferences in April and September attempted to raise the media's awareness
of violence against women. The Women's Forum on Research and Training,
with assistance from a foreign embassy, conducted a workshop on domestic
violence for security and NGO officials in September. The issue of violence
against women became a topic of heated public debate in 2000 following
the murder of two female students at Sana'a University's medical school
and extensive press reports documenting the authorities' dismissive
treatment of the female students' concerns and inadequate attention
to their security.
Prostitution is illegal; however, it occurs in practice.
The Penal Code allows for leniency for persons guilty of committing
a "crime against honor," a euphemism for violent assaults
or killings committed against a female for her perceived immodest or
defiant behavior. Legal provisions regarding violence against women
state that an accused man should be put to death for murdering a woman.
However, a husband who murders his wife and her lover may be fined or
imprisoned for a term not to exceed a year. Despite the apparent sanctioning
of honor killings, most citizens, including women's activists, believe
the phenomenon is not widespread. Some Western NGO's claim that the
practice is more prevalent, but admit to a lack of evidence to support
Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is condemned widely by international
health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health,
is practiced by some citizens. According to a 1997 demographic survey
conducted by the Government, nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of women
who have ever been married have been subjected to FGM. However, the
prevalence of the practice varies substantially by region. Citizens
of African origin or those living in communities with heavy African
influence are more likely to practice FGM. For example, according to
the survey, approximately 69 percent of women living in coastal areas
were subjected to FGM, compared with 15 percent in mountainous regions,
and 5 percent in the plateau and desert regions. The procedure mainly
is confined to excision, with infibulation being practiced only among
East African immigrants and refugees. FGM rarely is reported among Shaf'ai
Sunnis, and the Zaydi Shi'a reputedly do not practice it at all. The
Government's publication of the data on FGM was an important first step
in addressing this problem. In January the Cabinet issued a decree making
it illegal for public or private health service practitioners to practice
FGM, and some government health workers and officials continue to discourage
the practice actively and publicly. However, FGM technically remains
legal, and local women's groups have not adopted the problem as a major
Women face significant restrictions on their role in society. The law,
social custom, and Shari'a, as interpreted in the country, discriminate
against women. Men are permitted to take as many as four wives, although
very few do so. By law the minimum age of marriage is 15. However, the
law largely is not enforced, and some girls marry as early as age 12.
The law stipulates that the wife's "consent" to the marriage
is required; "consent" is defined as "silence" for
previously unwed women and "pronouncement of consent" for
divorced women. The husband and the wife's "guardian" (usually
her father) sign the marriage contract; in Aden and some outlying governorates,
the wife also signs. The practice of bride-price payments is widespread,
despite efforts to limit the size of such payments.
The law provides that the wife must obey the husband. She must live
with him at the place stipulated in the contract, consummate the marriage,
and not leave the home without his consent. Husbands may divorce wives
without justifying their action in court. A woman has the legal right
to divorce; however, she must provide a justification, such as her husband's
nonsupport, impotence, or taking of a second wife without her consent.
However, the expense of hiring a lawyer is a significant deterrent,
as is the necessity for rural women to travel to a city to present their
case. A woman seeking a divorce also must repay the mahr (a portion
of her bride price), which creates an additional hardship. As a woman's
family usually retains the mahr, the refusal by a family to pay the
mahr effectively can prevent a divorce. The family's refusal to accept
the woman back into the home also may deter divorce, as few other options
are available to women. When a divorce occurs, the family home and older
children often are awarded to the husband. The divorced woman usually
returns to her father's home or to the home of another male relative.
Her former husband must continue to support her for another 3 months,
since she may not remarry until she proves that she is not pregnant.
Women who seek to travel abroad must obtain permission from their husbands
or fathers to receive a passport and to travel (see Section 2.d.). They
also are expected to be accompanied by male relatives. However, enforcement
of this requirement is not consistent.
Shari'a-based law permits a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish
woman, but no Muslim woman may marry outside of Islam. Women do not
have the right to confer citizenship on their foreign-born spouses;
however, they may confer citizenship on children born in the country
of foreign-born fathers.
According to a 1995 Interior Ministry regulation, any citizen who wishes
to marry a foreigner must obtain the permission of the Ministry. A woman
wishing to marry a foreigner must present proof of her parents' approval
to the Interior Ministry. A foreign woman who wishes to marry a citizen
man must prove to the Ministry that she is "of good conduct and
behavior," and "is free from contagious disease." There
are no corresponding requirements for men to demonstrate parental approval,
good conduct, or freedom from contagious diseases. Although the regulation
does not have the force of law and is applied irregularly, some human
rights groups have raised concerns about it.
The Government consistently supports women's rights and the expansion
of the public role of women. The President frequently speaks publicly
about the importance of women in politics and economic development.
In 1999 the Prime Minister mandated that all ministries must promote
at least one woman to the director general level; during the year, the
Interior Ministry, which in 2000 was the only Ministry without a female
director general, appointed one. In addition in late 2000, the Ministry
of Interior initiated an aggressive campaign to recruit and train female
police officers; the new officers completed training and were deployed
in March. Several ministries have a number of female directors general.
In 2000 the Prime Minister established the Supreme Council for Women,
an independent governmental body charged with promoting women's issues
in the Government. With the Government's active support, bilateral and
multilateral donors have initiated long-term (1994-2004) projects worth
$31 million (4.96 billion riyals) aimed at advancing vocational education
and reproductive health for women and girls.
According to 2000 Government statistics, approximately 68 percent of
women are illiterate, compared with approximately 28 percent of men.
The fertility rate is 6.5 children per woman. Most women have little
access to basic health care. Only approximately 22 percent of births
are attended by trained health-care personnel. In some cases, women
do not use clinics because they are unable to afford them or reach them
from their remote villages, have little confidence in them, or their
male relatives or they themselves refuse to allow a male doctor to examine
them. Donor-funded maternal and child health programs attempt to address
these issues through programs designed to train midwives who serve rural
In general women in the south, particularly in Aden, are better educated
and have had somewhat greater employment opportunities than their northern
counterparts. However, since the 1994 civil war, the number of working
women in the south appears to have declined, due not only to the stagnant
economy but also to increasing cultural pressure from the north. According
to the UNDP, female workers account for 19 percent of the paid labor
force. There are no laws prohibiting sexual harassment, and it occurs
The National Women's Committee (NWC), a government-sponsored semi-independent
women's association, promotes women's education and civic responsibility
through seminars and workshops and by coordinating donors' programs.
The committee's chairwoman sits on the Prime Ministerial Supreme Council
for Women. In July the NWC, in a legal reform project financed by the
World Bank, completed a 6 month review of 58 significant national laws
to find and rectify provisions that discriminated against women or violated
equal status requirements agreed to by the Government in international
conventions. The NWC's 7-member legal committee, consisting of lawyers,
women's rights experts, and Islamic scholars, found that 10 laws contained
discriminatory language or "negligence with respect to women"
and that 15 others were ambiguous because the laws used the masculine
impersonal pronoun when the statutes governed women as well as men.
The team identified sections of the law with such problems, developed
revised language, provided a legal justification, and offered an Islamic
interpretation to validate the change. The Cabinet has approved the
recommended changes in principle, with some revisions; the NWC is working
with Parliament to formally change the law; however, Parliament passed
no legislation regarding this matter by year's end.
There are a number of recently formed NGO's working for women's advancement,
including the Social Association for Productive Families, which promotes
vocational development for women; the Women and Children's Department
of the Center for Future Studies, which organizes seminars and publishes
studies on women and children; the Woman and Child Development Association,
which focuses on health education and illiteracy; and the Yemeni Council
for Motherhood and Childhood, which provides microcredit and vocational
training to women.
While the Government asserts its commitment to protect children's rights,
it lacks the resources necessary to ensure adequate health care, education,
and welfare services for children. The Government does not provide free
medical care to children. The UNDP estimates that 30 percent of children
are malnourished; a 1997 demographic study by the Government put this
figure at 50 percent, and indicated that half of all children under
5 years of age exhibit stunted growth. The infant mortality rate in
1999 was 75 deaths per 1,000 births, down from 105 per 1,000 in 1998.
Male children receive preferential treatment over female children; after
the age of a year, male children have a 12 percent greater chance of
survival than females, a result of the comparative neglect of female
The law provides for universal, compulsory, and free education from
ages 6 to 15; however, the provision regarding compulsory attendance
is not enforced. Many children, especially girls, do not attend primary
school. According to a UNDP report released during the year, average
student attendance in primary schools is 76 percent for boys and 40
percent for girls. In rural areas, 52 percent of children attend school;
the rate in urban areas is 81 percent. Education for females is not
encouraged in some tribal areas, where girls often are kept at home
to help their mothers with childcare, housework, and farm work. According
to UNICEF's "Report on Children and Women in Yemen: 1998,"
an estimated 40 percent of primary-school-age children (ages 6 to 15)
do not attend school. Some rural areas have no schools for their school-age
population. In 1998 to encourage girls' attendance at school, the Government
passed a law that eliminated school fees and the requirement of uniforms
for girls. According to the UNICEF report, enrollment of girls in school
increased by 4 percent in 1998.
In 1999 following an inspection of Sana'a central prison, the Supreme
National Committee for Human Rights arranged for minors who previously
had been incarcerated with adults to be incarcerated separately in two
age groups: 11 to 14 years old; and 15 to 18 years old. Fifty juvenile
inmates were moved from the prison to an orphanage run by the Ministry
of Social Affairs, where they attend school and participate in other
activities (see Sections 1.c. and 4). The committee also initiated a
project, with the support of local businessmen, to build the country's
first youth reformatory (see Section 4). In February the U.N. High Commission
on Human Rights and the Government entered into a mutual agreement to
develop specific programs to address the problem of juvenile delinquency
by establishing a national mechanism for the administration of juvenile
Child marriage is common in rural areas. Although the law requires
that a girl be 15 years of age to marry, the law is not enforced, and
marriages of girls as young as age 12 occur.
Child abuse is not prohibited by law, and it was a problem.
Child labor was common (see Section 6.d.).
Female genital mutilation (FGM) was practiced mainly on young girls
(see Section 5, Women).
The new Minister of State for Human Rights stated in April that the
issue of children's rights would be at the top of her agenda. In 2000
the Prime Minister established the Higher Council of Motherhood and
Childhood (HCMC), a semiautonomous interministerial entity responsible
for formulating policy and programs to improve the status of children.
The HCMC participates in the World Bank's Child Development Program
and the Arab Council for Childhood and Development's program for street
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with mental and physical disabilities face distinct social
prejudices, as well as discrimination in education and employment. In
1998 the Government mandated the acceptance of persons with disabilities
in universities, exempted them from paying tuition, and required that
schools be made more accessible to persons with disabilities; however,
it is unclear to what extent these laws have been implemented. There
is no national law mandating the accessibility of buildings for persons
with disabilities. Some persons with disabilities are reduced to begging
to support themselves. Patients with mental illness, particularly those
who commit crimes, are imprisoned and even shackled when there is no
one to care for them. In some instances, authorities arrest persons
with mental illness without charge and place them in prisons alongside
criminals (see Section 1.c.). The ICRC, in cooperation with the Yemeni
Red Crescent Society, built and now staffs separate detention facilities
for prisoners with mental illness. These facilities are located in Sana'a,
Ibb, and Taiz, and collectively are able to care for a population of
about 300 persons.
Public awareness regarding the need to address the concerns of persons
with disabilities appears to be increasing. For example, during the
year a privately-funded center for persons with hearing and speaking
impairments was established in Taiz. In 2000 donors financed the establishment
of three new schools for persons with disabilities in Taiz governorate.
The Handicapped Society, the country's largest NGO involved in assisting
persons with disabilities, was founded in 1988 and has branches in 13
governorates. Funded by international donors (primarily the Swedish
organization Radda Barnen) and a modest annual grant from the Government,
the Handicapped Society provides rehabilitation assistance and vocational
training, and sponsors cultural and sports activities. The Ministry
of Education has assigned three teachers to teach students at the disabled-accessible
classrooms at the Society's Sana'a branch. Believing that the needs
of women with disabilities were not being addressed adequately by the
Handicapped Society, concerned citizens in 1998 established, with government
support, the Challenge Society. The Challenge Society provides 85 females
with disabilities between the ages of 6 and 30 with medical care, support
services, and vocational training. In 2000 three teenagers with disabilities
toured the country on specially adapted bicycles and, supported by the
Ministry of Youth and Sports and private sector contributions, took
their bike tour to several Arab countries.
Apart from a small but undetermined number of Christians and Hindus
of South Asian origin in Aden, Jews are the only indigenous religious
minority. Their numbers have diminished significantly--from several
tens of thousands to a few hundred--due to voluntary emigration over
the past 50 years. Although the law makes no distinction, Jews traditionally
are restricted to living in one section of a city or village and often
are confined to a limited choice of employment, usually farming or handicrafts.
Jews may, and do, own property.
Non-Muslims may vote, but they are prohibited from holding elective
office. Christian clergy who minister to the foreign community are employed
in teaching, social services, and health care. Occasionally the security
authorities harass such clergy by censoring their mail, ostensibly to
prevent proselytizing (see Section 2.c.).
Citizens with a noncitizen parent, called "muwalladin," at
times face discrimination in employment and in other areas. Persons
who seek employment at Sana'a University or admission to the military
academy by law must demonstrate that they have two citizen parents.
Nonetheless, many senior government officials, including Members of
Parliament and ministers, have only one citizen parent. In some cases,
naturalization of the non-Yemeni parent is sufficient to overcome the
A small group of persons claiming to be the descendants of ancient
Ethiopian occupiers of Yemen who later were enslaved, are considered
the lowest social class. Known as the "Akhdam" (servants),
they live in poverty and endure persistent social discrimination. Beginning
in September 1999, the Government's Social Fund for Development (SFD)
initiated a program for "special needs groups," which focused
particularly on the Akhdam. During the year, the SFD continued to conduct
an education project for Akhdam children in Hodeidah governorate, provided
support to an NGO conducting field research on Akhdam needs in Sana'a
governorate, improved the quality of the water supply and built two
classrooms for the Akhdam community in Taiz governorate, and coordinated
with NGO's in Sana'a, Taiz, and Dhamar governorates on issues regarding
education and Akhdam street children. In July several Akhdam-origin
citizens in Taiz governorate established the Free Black People's Charitable
Organization to fight discrimination and improve conditions for their
There have been reports by human rights groups that some immigrants
of African origin have difficulty in securing Interior Ministry permission
to marry citizens. An Interior Ministry regulation requires that marriages
of citizens and foreigners be approved in advance by the Ministry (see
also Section 1.f.).
Tribal violence continued to be a problem during the year, and the
Government's ability to control tribal elements responsible for kidnapings,
shootings, and other acts of violence remained limited. During March
persons were reported killed and 11 wounded in tribal disputes between
the al-Usaimat and Wadeah tribes in Amran governorate. In January ten
tribesmen were killed and seven injured in confrontations between the
Dahma and Wa'ila tribes in Sa'ada governorate. In May five persons were
killed in a drive-by shooting in Sana'a. Witnesses said that the incident
involved the Abu Nashtun and al-Faqih tribes and was related to an incident
between the two tribes that had occurred 10 years previously. Also in
May, in the ongoing feud between the Marib-based al-Zaydi tribe and
the Sana'a-based Sanhan tribe, a child was killed and two adults injured
in Marib when security forces were dispatched to rescue five kidnaped
Sanhani children. In July in Marib governorate, 15 tribesmen were killed
when a reported land dispute between the Jahm and Nahm tribes escalated
into violence. Also in Marib in July, 11 soldiers and 2 tribesmen were
killed when security forces were deployed in the region to arrest 2
Jahm tribesmen suspected of bombing the country's main oil pipeline.
In October 6 tribesmen were killed and 16 injured during 2 days of tribal
violence stemming from a land dispute in Hajja governorate. Tensions,
which periodically escalate into violent confrontations, continue between
the Government and the Khowlan, al-Zaydi and Jahm tribes in Marib governorate.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution and Labor Law provide that citizens have the right
to form and join unions; however, this right is restricted in practice.
The Government seeks to place its own personnel in positions of influence
inside unions and trade union federations.
The General Federation of Trade Unions of Yemen (GFWTUY) remains the
sole national umbrella organization. The GFWTUY claims approximately
350,000 members in 14 unions and denies any association with the Government,
although it works closely with the Government to resolve labor disputes
through negotiation. Observers suggest that the Government likely would
not tolerate the establishment of an alternative labor federation unless
it believed such an establishment to be in its best interest.
Only the General Assembly of the GFWTUY may dissolve unions. The law
provides equal labor rights for women, and it confirms the freedom of
workers to associate. The Labor Law does not stipulate a minimum membership
for unions, nor does it limit them to a specific enterprise or firm.
Thus, citizens may associate by profession or trade.
The Labor Law provides for the right to strike; however, strikes are
not permitted unless a dispute between workers and employers is "final"
and "incontestable" (a prior attempt must have been made to
settle through negotiation or arbitration). The proposal to strike must
be submitted to at least 60 percent of all concerned workers, of whom
25 percent must vote in favor of the proposal. Permission to strike
also must be obtained from the GFWTUY. Strikes for explicit "political
purposes" are prohibited.
There were several small strikes during the year. In April workers
at the National Dockyard in Aden struck for 3 days to demand equal employment
benefits with workers at the Port of Aden. These demands were met. In
May employees at the General Corporation for Foreign Trade and Grain
in Sana'a held a 1-day strike to protest the plan to transfer the building
in which they worked to the Ministry of Higher Education; the Government
agreed to seek another building for the Ministry. Also in May, the staff
at the al-Thawra public hospital struck for 3 days for higher wages;
a compromise solution was reached. The national teachers' union conducted
a 2-day strike in several governorates in September to pressure the
Government to implement the new Teachers' Law, which increases benefits.
Teachers at Sana'a University struck for approximately 3 weeks in September
to demand equal pay as foreign instructors at the university. There
were no reports of violence in connection with these strikes.
The GFWTUY is affiliated with the Confederation of Arab Trade Unions
and since November with the Brussels-based International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions. The GFWTUY withdrew from the formerly Soviet-controlled
World Federation of Trade Unions in January.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The 1995 Labor Law provides workers with the right to organize and
bargain collectively. The Government permits these activities; however,
it seeks to influence them by placing its own personnel inside groups
and organizations. All collective
bargaining agreements must be deposited with and reviewed by the Ministry
of Labor, a practice criticized by the International Labor Organization
(ILO). Several such agreements exist. Agreements may be invalidated
if they are "likely to cause a breach of security or to damage
the economic interests of the country." Unions may negotiate wage
settlements for their members and may resort to strikes or other actions
to achieve their demands. Public sector employees must take their grievances
The law generally protects employees from antiunion discrimination;
however, during the year the International Confederation of Labor Unions
identified weaknesses within this law. Employers do not have the right
to dismiss an employee for union activities. Employees may appeal any
disputes, including cases of antiunion discrimination, to the Ministry
of Social Affairs and Labor. Employees also may take a case to the Labor
Arbitration Committee, which is chaired by the Ministry of Labor and
also consists of an employer representative and a GFWTUY representative.
Such cases often are disposed favorably toward workers, especially if
the employer is a foreign company.
There are no export processing zones (EPZ's) in operation; an EPZ is
planned for Aden.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there were
no reports of its practice. The law does not prohibit forced or bonded
labor by children specifically, but such practices are not known to
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The law does not prohibit forced or bonded labor by children specifically,
but such practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
The established minimum age for employment is 15 years in the private
sector and 18 years in the public sector. By special permit, children
between the ages of 12 and 15 may work. The Government rarely enforces
these provisions, especially in rural and remote areas. The Government
also does not enforce laws requiring 9 years of compulsory education
Child labor is common, especially in rural areas. Many children are
required to work in subsistence farming because of the poverty of their
families. Even in urban areas, children work in stores and workshops,
sell goods on the streets, and beg.
Many school-aged children work instead of attending school, particularly
in areas in which schools are not easily accessible.
The results of the 1994 national census showed that 231,655 children
between the ages of 10 and 14 years, or 6.5 percent of all children
in that age group, were working. Experts believe that the number has
increased since 1994.
In 2000 the President's Consultative Council (now the Shura Council)
adopted the ILO's Child Labor Strategy to address persistent child labor
problems. A special council, under the leadership of the Minister of
Social Affairs and Labor, uses the strategy as a government-wide guideline
for enforcing existing child labor laws and formulating and implementing
In June 2000, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor
signed a $1.3 million agreement with the ILO's International Program
on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). During the year under the
program, the Ministry established a child labor department and will
begin to train teachers to make school curriculums more relevant to
rural children, mobilize media to discuss child labor, establish a microenterprise
program to help families establish businesses that will allow their
children to stay in school, and seek the support of civil society to
remove children from hazardous jobs. In addition in 2000, the Ministry
of Insurance and Social Affairs in 2000 developed a plan to establish
six centers for street children in six governorates over the next 5
years. Two centers were completed during the year.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor occasionally inspects factories
in the major population areas. Ministry officials state that they lack
the resources to enforce child labor laws more effectively. However,
since a great percentage of the country's underage work force is in
the agricultural sector in remote rural areas, it is difficult for the
Government to protect most child workers.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no established minimum wage for any type of employment. The
Labor Law states that "it shall not be permissible that the minimal
level of the wage of a worker should be less than the minimal wages
of government civil servants." During the year, the Government
increased civil servants' wages. According to the Ministry of Civil
Service and Social Security, the average minimum wage of civil servants
is approximately $44 to $56 (7,500 to 9,500 riyals) per month, up from
$37 to $56 (6,000 to 9,000 riyals) per month in 2000. Private sector
workers, especially skilled technicians, earn a far higher wage. The
average wage does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker
and family. A combination of inflation and the loss of government-provided
subsidies continued to erode wages.
The law specifies a maximum 48-hour workweek with a maximum 8-hour
workday, but many workshops and stores operate 10- to 12-hour shifts
without penalty. The workweek for government employees is 35 hours:
7 hours per day from Saturday through Wednesday.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for regulating workplace health
and safety conditions. The requisite legislation for regulating occupational
health is contained in the Labor Law, but enforcement is weak to nonexistent.
Many workers regularly are exposed to toxic industrial products and
develop respiratory illnesses. Some foreign-owned companies as well
as major manufacturers implement higher health, safety, and environmental
standards than the Government requires. Workers have the right to remove
themselves from dangerous work situations and may challenge dismissals
in court. These laws are respected in practice.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons, and there were no reports
that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,
U.S. State Department, March 2002