Bahai News - Concern Regarding Respect for Human Rights
09 - March 1st thru March 7th 1999, Vol IX
Selected Parts of the US Department's Report on
Human Rights in Yemen in 1998
Concern Regarding Respect for Human Rights
The Republic of Yemen, comprising the former (northern) Yemen Arab Republic
(YAR) and (southern) People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, was proclaimed
in 1990 . . . .
The Government's human rights record continued to be poor, although it took
some steps to address human rights problems. There are significant
limitations on citizens' rights to change their government. There were
instances of extrajudicial killing by some members of the security forces.
There was compelling evidence that at least one person died in the custody
of the security forces, and the Government has not yet made a credible effort
to investigate the death. Following the Government's lifting of subsidies on
certain commodities, an estimated 50 to 250 persons, at least 40 of whom were
security officials, died in clashes in late June and early July between the
authorities and armed civilians.
Prison conditions are poor and some detainees were held in private prisons not
authorized by the Government. Some members of the security forces tortured and
otherwise abused persons, and continued arbitrarily to arrest and to detain
citizens, especially oppositionists in the south and other persons regarded
as "secessionists." PSO officers have broad discretion over perceived
national security issues. Despite constitutional constraints, they routinely
monitor citizens' activities and search their homes, detain citizens for
questioning, and mistreat detainees. In fact, security forces sometimes
countermanded orders from the President and the Interior Ministry. In general,
the Government failed to hold members of the security forces accountable for
abuses, although it did undertake to investigate three security officers who
allegedly tortured a witness in a court case. Prolonged pre-trial detention
is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive
interference undermine due process.
The Government began to implement a comprehensive program for judicial reform,
but its impact is not yet clear. The Constitution limits freedom of speech
and of the press, and the Government occasionally harassed, intimidated, and
detained journalists. Journalists practice self-censorship. The Government
imposes some restrictions on freedom of religion. There were some limits of
freedom of movement. Discrimination based on sex, race, disability, social
status, and to a lesser extent, religion, exists. Violence against women is
a problem. Female genital mutilation is practiced on a limited scale,
primarily along the coastal areas of the Red Sea. Although the practice is
discouraged publicly, the authorities do not prohibit it. Child labor is a
At the invitation of the authorities, delegations from the U.N. Human Rights
Commission (UNHRC), Amnesty International (AI), and Prison Reform
International (PRI) visited Yemen during the year to observe the human rights
situation and make recommendations. The Government agreed to implement a
program recommended by the PRI that consists mainly of technical training
for prison officials. The Government also began to implement a comprehensive
program for judicial reform. The Government codified penalties for the
perpetrators of kidnapings and implemented regulations designed to minimize
the carrying of unlicensed weapons in cities.
A campaign of bombings -- the devices sometimes were little more than noise
bombs -- continued throughout the year, particularly in the southern
governorates. The bombs caused a number of deaths, but damage to property
was limited, and the perpetrators of and motives for the bombings remain
A. POLITICAL & OTHER EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS:
There was credible evidence that security forces killed a prisoner in
detention in late 1997 or early 1998. Wadia al-Shaibani, a 22-year-old
arrested in connection with the July 1997 bombings in Aden, apparently died
after suffering a beating at the Soleyban police facility in Aden. Government
authorities declined to investigate; they claimed that al-Shaibani committed
Faraj Bin Hammam, age 40, and Ahmad Omar Ba Rajash, age 42, died during an
April demonstration in Mukallah that turned violent. Demonstrators claimed
that police and security officials opened fire without provocation. The
authorities claimed that the demonstrators themselves had thrown rocks and
shot at security officials. Two parliamentary delegations came to differing
assessments as to who was at fault.
In May Mohamed Thabit al-Zubeidi, a resident of al-Dhala, was shot and killed
by security forces as he crossed a checkpoint in that town. His companions
returned fire, killing three soldiers.
Police killed three tribal sheikhs at a checkpoint in Jawf in August. An
estimated 50 to 250 persons, including at least 40 security officials, died
when demonstrations led to clashes between the authorities and armed
civilians during late June and early July in some cities as well as in Marib
governorate. The overwhelming majority of casualties occurred in Marib. The
clashes in the cities initially were sparked by the Government's lifting of
subsidies on certain commodities; political opponents of the Government
apparently took advantage of the situation to encourage the demonstrations.
Occasionally violent demonstrations, usually lasting not more than a day or
two, occurred in Sana'a and other areas, including Taiz, Ibb, and Dhamar.
Protests took the form of looting, vandalism and armed clashes between
demonstrators and security officials. Military and riot police were
dispatched to the streets in some cities.
In the wake of the initial clashes in the cities, heavy and more prolonged
fighting broke out in Marib governorate, where confrontations took place
between government forces in tanks and tribal nomads with antipersonnel
and antitank rocket-propelled grenades (RPG's). A nomad settlement reportedly
was destroyed by government helicopter gunships. Tribesmen cut off key
highways and sabotaged oil pipelines and fuel trucks. A group of tribesmen
stormed a bank in the town of Marib. Tribesmen also blocked the Saada-Sana'a
road and several roads in Shabwa governorate. Scattered firefights took place
throughout Shabwa and Jawf governorates. The conflicts in tribal areas
stemmed from a variety of factors, including reaction to the price hikes and
demands for government services, as well as opposition to government efforts
to crack down on illegal tribal activities. Both the security forces and the
tribes suffered heavy casualties.
On December 28, a group of 16 Western tourists was kidnaped by terrorists
in Abyan governorate near Mudiyah. The next day, Government forces surrounded
the area and attempted a rescue operation. Four of the hostages and three of
the terrorists were killed. There were varying reports as to whether the
government forces killed any of the hostages. The Government has stated that
its decision to intervene was based on its belief that the hostages' lives
were in immediate danger. Three surviving terrorists were charged with
murder, and their trial was to begin in early 1999.
The 1996 case of a YSP activist who died in police custody remained
unresolved. The youth had been arrested following his participation in a
peaceful demonstration in Mukallah. No member of the security forces has
been charged in connection with his death. Up to 20 persons were killed in
a series of violent incidents--unexplained bombings and shootings--that
occurred throughout the year, primarily in the southern governorates. Of
these, eight died in three separate mosque bombings in Aden, Sana'a, and
Hodeidah. 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. A prominent tribal
figure and his 13-year-old nephew were killed in downtown Sana'a in late
October in what appeared to be a tribal revenge killing. In June the
President established a committee to study the phenomenon of revenge
killings and to make recommendations on how to combat that problem. News
reports and official discussions on the subject were continuing at year's end.
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, especially in southern governorates, are associated with the
YSP or other opposition parties and are accused of being "secessionists."
Most such disappearances are temporary, and detainees typically are
released within weeks or months.
Following an April opposition demonstration in Mukallah in which two persons
were killed (see Section 1.a.), the authorities rounded up and detained a
large number of demonstrators. The security forces released 14 of the
detainees in late May. However, at year's end, oppositionists in Mukallah
claimed that a number of persons remained unaccounted for, including Hassan
Baoum, the leader of the YSP in Hadhramaut and head of the opposition
Coordination Council. The Government stated that it was not holding anyone
except those charged with crimes, and asserted that Baoum is in hiding. In
late October, the Hadhramaut Primary Court announced that a trial would
begin in the case of Baoum and other oppositionists charged in connection
with the April demonstration in Mukallah. However, the Governor of Hadhramaut
subsequently announced that this case would not be pursued if Baoum were to
turn himself over to the authorities peacefully.
At the invitation of the authorities, delegations from the U.N. Human Rights
Commission and Amnesty International visited the country to investigate the
whereabouts of persons who have "disappeared" in custody since
unification. The UNHRC and AI had not yet released reports on their findings
by year's end. In 1997 the Government had promised AI that it would look into
28 cases of persons who died after they reportedly "disappeared" while
in government custody in the years 1994-96. Both the U.N. Committee on
Disappearances and AI also continued to allege that there were hundreds of
unresolved disappearances dating from the pre-union period in the former
PDRY, particularly from the 1986 civil war in the PDRY. The Government
asserts that it cannot be held responsible for cases that took place in 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 pre-unity period.
Some tribes seek to bring their political and economic concerns to the
attention of the Government by kidnaping and holding hostages. Victims
include foreign businessmen, diplomats, and tourists, as well as Yemenis.
Several women and at least one child were kidnaped during the year. The
legal magazine al-Qistas, in a study that it conducted on 159 kidnappings
perpetrated since unity, found that Sana'a, Marib and Shabwa are the areas
where a foreigner is most likely to be kidnapped. Kidnapping victims rarel
are injured, and the authorities generally have been successful in obtaining
the quick release of foreign hostages. However, kidnapings continue because
the judiciary fails to implement sentences against accused kidnappers.
Moreover, some families linked to various kidnapings also are politically
or tribally prominent or have links with such tribes. In most cases the
kidnappings are settled out of court, with no suspects facing trial.
In August the Government issued by presidential decree a law that stipulated
severe punishments up to and including capital punishment for persons
involved in kidnaping and banditry. Persons charged with helping a foreign
state or gang in a kidnapping or theft by force face sentences of 10 to 15
years, subject to doubling if the instigators are military officers or
otherwise employed by the state. In late December, three persons arrested
after the December 28 terrorist incident in Muodiyah were charged with
abduction and murder; their trial was to begin in early 1999 (see Section
C. TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT
The Constitution is ambiguous on its prohibition of cruel or inhuman
punishment; however, there were numerous reports that members of the security
forces tortured and otherwise abused persons in detention, particularly in
Aden and elsewhere in the south. Arresting authorities are known to use force
during interrogations, especially against those arrested for violent crimes.
Detainees sometimes are confined in leg-irons and shackles, despite the
passage of a law during the year outlawing this practice. Several individuals
on trial in Aden in connection with a series of bombings in 1997 testified
publicly that they had been tortured. One defendant claimed that he had been
raped in custody. At least one other person arrested in connection with the
same bombings died as a result of beatings inflicted by security officials.
According to eyewitnesses who also claimed to have been tortured, Wadia
al-Shaibani was first beaten in a criminal security office in Aden, then
transferred to the Soleyban police facility, were he was tortured to death.
No charges have been filed.
In a related case in which 31 persons were accused of conspiracy in Mahara
governorate in 1997, several of the suspects claimed that they had confessed
only because they had been tortured. Defense attorneys asserted the existence
of films that would prove their clients' allegations that they had been
beaten, and asked the judge to view the films. The judge overruled this
request. In late October, the court sentenced three of the defendants to
death, found one innocent, and sentenced the others to jail for periods
ranging from 6 to 10 years. There was credible information that in February
officers of the Rawdah police station assaulted Mohamed Noman Muqbil, an
Adeni human rights activist and oppositionist.
During an April demonstration in Mukallah in which two persons died, police
and security officials used tear gas to break up the crowd. Some persons
reported that that they were treated roughly by officials. The Government
claimed that the demonstrators had fired on their forces and therefore had
to be subdued. The Government has acknowledged publicly that torture takes
place, but has claimed that the use of torture is not government policy. A
government prosecutor has cited illiteracy and lack of training among police
and security officials as one of the reasons for the persistence of the use
of undue force in prisons. It appears that at least some cases of torture by
security officials have been referred to the courts. In late November, the
newly-appointed Attorney General ordered that three officers from the criminal
investigation department be detained and investigated in connection with the
use of torture of a witness in a family dispute case. The three officers
included the head of the antiterrorism unit within the Interior Ministry.
This officer also had been implicated in the abuse of defendants in the Aden
The Constitution may be interpreted as permitting amputations in accordance
with Shari'a. There have been no reports of amputations since 1991. However,
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 minor
crimes (e.g., the penalty for the consumption of alcohol is 80 lashes). The
law also provides for 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 done and to prevent blood feuds
Prison conditions are poor and do not meet internationally recognized minimum
standards. Prisons are overcrowded, sanitary conditions are poor, and food
and health care are inadequate. Inmates must depend on relatives for food
and medicine. Many inmates lack mattresses or bedding. Prison authorities
often exact money from prisoners and refuse to release prisoners until
family members pay a bribe. Tribal leaders misuse the prison system by
placing "problem" tribesmen in jail, either to punish them for
non-criminal indiscretions or to protect them from retaliation or violence
motivated by revenge. Refugees, persons with mental problems, and illegal
immigrants sometimes are arrested without charge and placed in prisons
alongside criminals. The newspaper al-Ayyam reported that two mentally
disabled persons were arrested and imprisoned in the central security prison
in al-Dhala following armed confrontations between authorities and civilians
in May and June (see Section 1.a.). According to a local human rights
organization, many instances of torture have taken place at Amran prison.
Conditions are equally poor in women's prisons, where children are likely
to be incarcerated along with their mothers. By custom and preference, babies
born in prison generally remain in prison with their mothers. Female
prisoners regularly are held in jail past the expiration of their sentences,
and are not released until a male relative arranges their release. Female
prisoners sometimes are subject to sexual harassment and violent interrogation
by male police and prison officials. In September the Government permitted
a delegation from AI to visit the central prison in Taiz, specifically to
check on the condition of female prisoners in that facility. The Government
also cooperated with Prison Reform International, which visited many of the
country's main prisons and designed a program to train prison and security
The Government tightly controls access to detention facilities by
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), although it sometimes permits local
and international human rights monitors access to persons accused of crimes.
However, the Government does not permit access to political prisoners. The
Human Rights Committee of the Consultative Council (an advisory board to the
President) continued to conduct spot checks of prisons and to arrange for
the expeditious release of persons held improperly. The Committee also
investigated the death of Wadia al-Shaibani, a youth who apparently was
beaten to death while in an Aden jail (see Section 1.a.). However, the
Committee was unable to persuade the authorities to investigate the death or
to bring charges against security officials.
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 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.
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 if bribed. The majority of those detained in late 1997 in
connection with the Aden bombings (see Section 1.e.) were not permitted
contact with their families or lawyers until many months after their arrest.
The trial of 27 of these persons concluded in October, although, according
to the law, the violation of the right to counsel should have suspended
the case. Citizens in southern governorates regularly complained that
security officials did not observe due process procedures when arresting and
detaining suspects, particularly those accused of involvement in the various
bombings and explosions that continued to occur in the south during the year.
Security forces sometimes detained demonstrators (see Section 2.b.).
In April the Rabeta Party reported that one of its officials, Mohsen Zein
Hussein, was arrested by the PSO in Lahaj without a warrant and incarcerated
in Sabr prison. Hussein was released 22 days later without being charged with
a crime. He said that he had been circulating a petition calling for national
reconciliation when the authorities detained him. In June the director of
Central Security in Aden released five persons arrested in connection with
the 1997 bombings in that city. The official apologized to the men, who had
been incarcerated for 4 months, for having imprisoned them "in error."
In February Mohamed Noman Muqbil, a human rights activist and
oppositionist, was arrested without a warrant, and later was released without
being charged. According to reliable reports, he apparently was beaten during
his detention in Rawdah police station in Aden. In cases where a criminal
suspect is at large, security forces sometimes 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 has 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. Thousands of
persons have been imprisoned for years without documentation concerning
charges against them, their trials, or their sentences. Local and
international human rights organizations believe that at least some of these
persons are political detainees. While a few cases of those being held
without charge have been redressed through the efforts of local human rights
groups (and a few illegally detained prisoners released), the authorities
have done nothing to investigate or resolve these cases. Unauthorized,
private prisons also exist in tribal areas, where the Government exercises
very little authority. Persons detained in these prisons often are held for
strictly personal reasons and without trial or sentencing. 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 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.
E. DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL
Although the Constitution provides for an "autonomous" judiciary and
independent judges, the judiciary is not fully independent. Judges are
appointed by the executive branch, and some have been reassigned or removed
from office following rulings against the Government. Many litigant maintain,
and the Government acknowledges, that a judge's social ties and
susceptibility to bribery sometimes have greater influence on the verdict
than the law or the facts of the case. Many judges are poorly trained, and
some closely associated with the Government often render decisions favorable
to it. The judiciary is hampered further by the Government's frequent
reluctance to implement sentences.
In June the Government announced a reform of the judiciary that included the
dismissal of several judges alleged to have been corrupt, incompetent, or
both, and the appointment of new, and reportedly more competent, judges. In
July the Government cut the size of the Supreme Court from more than 90
judges to approximately 40. This reduction followed several months of internal
debate over how to proceed with the Government's judicial reform program,
approved by ministerial decree in late 1997. The comprehensive reform program
envisions improving the operational efficiency and statutory independence of
the judiciary by putting reform-minded personnel into the courts; forming an
inter-ministerial 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 to the
Government in implementing judicial reform. The reform program's impact is
not yet clear.
There are five types of courts: criminal, civil (e.g. divorce and
inheritance), administrative, commercial, and military. All courts are
governed by Shari'a (Islamic law). There are no jury trials under Shari'a.
Criminal cases are adjudicated by a judge who plays an active role in
questioning witnesses and the accused. By law, the Government must provide
attorneys for indigent defendants. In practice, however, this never occurs;
neither the Criminal Code nor the judicial budget allows for defense
attorneys. Law prosecutors are a part of the judiciary and independent of
the Government. In practice, however, prosecutors look upon themselves as an
extension of the police. They do not receive the normal judicial training
that judges do, nor do they take seriously their legal obligation to
penalize 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 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 reported winning cases against
local defendants and seeing the decisions enforced.
The law permits, in addition to regular courts, a system of tribal
adjudication. The results of such mediation carry the same weight as court
judgments. This provision of law explains in part why so many persons who
spend time in jail are never actually charged with any crime. Prior to
unification, approximately half of the judges working in southern Yemen were
women. However, after the civil war of 1994, fundamentalist leaders of the
judiciary reassigned many southern female judges to administrative or
clerical duties. Although a few female judges continue to practice in Aden,
there are no female judges in northern courts.
A trial continued throughout most of the year for a total of 27 suspects
charged with conspiracy, espionage, and other crimes related to a series of
bombings in Aden in 1997. The trial did not meet minimum international
standards for due process. Many of the defendants' confessions apparently
were coerced, and the defendants were not permitted to see their lawyers
until after the trials began and other defendants already had testified.
In late October, the court sentenced the main suspect, a Spanish-Syrian
national, to death. Five persons were found innocent, 16 received prison
sentences of from 1 to 3 years, and the rest were released after the judge
ruled that they already had served enough time in jail. The Spanish Government
and the European Union have asked the Government not to implement the death
sentence against the Spanish-Syrian defendant. The trial of another 31
persons accused of conspiracy against officials in Mahara governorate in 1997
also continued throughout the year in a Sana'a court. Several of the suspects
claimed that they had confessed only because they had been tortured. The
judge overruled a defense request to review evidence of torture. In late
October, the court sentenced three of the defendants to death, found one
innocent, and sentenced the others to jail for periods ranging from 6 to 10
years. The security services made several arrests, brought charges, and put
on trial a number of persons alleged to be linked to various shootings,
explosions, bombings, and other acts of violence that continued to plague
the southern governorates throughout the year. Citizens and human rights
groups alleged frequently that the judiciary was not observing due process
standards in these cases.
The Government claims that it holds no political prisoners, and releases no
data on such cases. However, this claim is disputed by local and international
human rights groups, which report that various political prisoners were
convicted after unfair trials.
At the end of the 1994 civil war, the President pardoned nearly all had who
fought against the central Government, including military personnel and most
leaders of the unrecognized DRY. The Government denied this amnesty to the
16 most senior leaders of the DRY (one of whom is now presumed dead), who
fled abroad and who 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 a judge sentenced five
of the defendants to death and three 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 receiving sentences, in the
interest of promoting reconciliation between north and south. The President
has stated that it is up to the judicial system to pass judgment. Defense
attorneys have appealed to a higher court.
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.
The law prevents arrests between the hours of sundown and dawn. However,
persons suspected of crimes sometimes 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. According to a 1995 Ministry of Interior regulation, no
citizen may marry a foreigner without Interior Ministry permission. This
regulation does not carry the force of law, and appears to be irregularly
enforced. However, human rights groups have raised concerns about the
G. FREEDOM OF SPEECH & PRESS:
The Constitution restricts the freedom of speech and of the press "within
the limits of the law." 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 Press Law
criminalizes "the humiliation of the State, the Cabinet, or parliamentary
institutions," and the publication of "false information" that
"threatens public order or the public interest." The Government
influences the media and limits press freedom. Some security officials attempt
to influence press coverage by threatening, harassing, and detaining
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 that was not
present before the civil war. The international human rights group, the
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), criticized the Government for
restrictions, harassment, and arbitrary detention directed at journalists.
The Ministry of Information influences the media by its control of most
printing presses, by subsidies to certain newspapers, and by its ownership of
the country's sole television and radio outlets. Only one newspaper, the
twice-weekly Aden independent Al-Ayyam, owns its own press. The Government
selects the items to be covered in news broadcasts, and does not permit
broadcast reporting critical of the Government. Televised debates in the
Parliament are edited to delete such criticism.
After more than 7 years, the Government implemented regulations for the 1990
Press Law. The new regulations specify, among other things, that newspapers
must apply annually to the Government for licensing renewal, and that they
must show continuing evidence of about $5,000 (700,000 Yemeni riyals) in
operating capital. Some journalists welcomed the new regulations, saying that
they were long overdue. Others claimed that the regulations are designed to
drive some opposition papers out of business. Al-Ayyam reported that the
Government was using the new regulations to deny it a license to publish a
newspaper about sports, even though the newspaper claimed to have complied
with the requirements of the law.
Although newspapers are allowed to criticize the Government, journalists
sometimes censor themselves, especially when writing on such sensitive issues
as government policies toward the southern governorates, relations with Saudi
Arabia and other foreign governments, or official corruption. The penalties
for exceeding these self-imposed limits can be arrest for libel, dismissal
from employment, or extralegal harassment. Some journalists reported being
threatened by security officials to change the tone and substance of their
reporting. Journalists must have a permit to travel abroad, although
enforcement of this restriction is irregular.
In January author and journalist Ali Abdullah al-Kutheri and Mohsen al-Amoudi,
both officials of the Rabeta party, were arrested at Rayan airport near
Mukallah when they attempted to board a flight to Saudi Arabia. Their
passports were confiscated temporarily. Abdulrahman Ali Khubara, an Aden-based
journalist, was held for questioning by the authorities following an August
trip to Cairo. In March the Sana'a prosecutor responsible for press matters
brought a case against al-Thawri, the newspaper of the Socialist Party, for
articles criticizing the Government. Three al-Thawri journalists reported
being interrogated at length by the prosecutor's office. The case was still
under review at year's end. In May three journalists from the British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) were arrested after they traveled to a tribal
area that the Government considered unsafe. The BBC crew claimed that it had
prior government permission to visit the area, but the authorities disputed
this. Eventually the journalists were put on trial, but the judge dropped the
case within 24 hours.
In June security officials ordered the newspaper al-Ayyam, which had been
covering the Aden bombing trial on a regular basis, to cease publishing any
news relating to that case. The Government also prohibited the local
correspondent from the Qatar-based Jazeera television channel from
transmitting footage of the trial. The Government claimed that reporting on
the case would violate the press and national security laws.
The Government, purportedly to avoid inflaming the situation further withheld
film footage taken during riots that took place in Sana'a and other cities
in late June. The correspondent for the Qatar-based al-Jazeera television
channel reported that his film was confiscated by security officials. However,
the Government allowed televised coverage of the Parliament's criticism the
Government's handling of the crisis. The Ministry of Information later
referred five unnamed newspapers to the courts.
In July government officials called in journalists working for foreign media
outlets and warned them about publishing news involving national security
matters. No judgment has yet been rendered in the Government's case against
the newspaper al-Shoura, which dates to 1995. The case involved two
journalists for the newspaper who had been found guilty of slander and
character assassination against an important sheikh, a leader of the Islah
Party. The judge ordered that the newspaper be shut down, and that the
journalists be flogged 80 lashes, stopped from working for one year, and
fined 100,00 riyals ($800). The Ministry of Justice suspended this judgment
while reviewing its conformity with law and judicial procedure. Meanwhile,
al-Shoura continues to operate.
In September a judge issued a ruling against Muhammad al-Saqqaf, a journalist
and former university law professor accused of writing articles critical of
the Government in the weekly Government-controlled newspaper al-Wahda in
1996. Specifically, al-Saqqaf had questioned the Government's handling of
preparations for the 1997 election. The judge ordered both al-Saqqaf and the
newspaper to each pay a fine of approximately $35,000 (5 million riyals).
Al-Saqqaf also was ordered to apologize to the Supreme Elections Committee.
In November the Special Media Court filed a case against Abdul Aziz
al-Saqqaf, the editor of the English-language weekly Yemen Times, for
publishing a story questioning the disposition of government profits from oil
Customs officials confiscate foreign publications regarded as pornographic
or objectionable because of religious or political content. The Ministry
of Information routinely delayed the distribution of international
Arabic-language dailies such as al-Hayat and al-Sharq al-Awsat in an apparent
effort to decrease their sales in the country.
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. It is then 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 do not usually deal with an author who has not yet obtained the
Academic freedom is somewhat restricted by 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. In contrast to past years,
there were no reports during the year of Islaah members harassing students
and professors. Top administrative positions usually are awarded to political
allies of these two major parties.
H. FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY & ASSOCIATION
There are no constitutional restrictions on the right to assemble peacefully,
although the Government requires a permit for these purposes. Government
informers monitor meetings and assemblies. Following the demonstrations
of June and July, the Government sent a draft law to Parliament in September
that would impose significant limitations on the right to assemble and
to demonstrate. The draft law aroused controversy among many lawyers, human
rights activists, and members of Parliament. The Parliament so far has
refused to take action on this proposed new law.
In April police killed two protesters in Mukallah during demonstrations that
turned violent. Demonstrators claimed that police opened fire without
provocation. The authorities claimed that demonstrators instigated the
clashes. In late June and July, demonstrations in the cities led to clashes
between security forces and civilians in which some persons were killed. Two
opposition demonstrations took place in Lahaj and Mukallah on June 29 and 30,
respectively, in the wake of intense public criticism directed against the
Government's lifting of subsidies on commodities. Opposition leaders applied
for and received permits, and both events occurred without violence. The
opposition claimed that 21 of its leaders were arrested prior to the march.
In August several opposition figures were briefly detained after a peaceful
demonstration in Abyan. They later were released without charge.
There are no constitutional restrictions on the freedom of association, and
the Government generally respects this right in practice. Associations must
obtain an operating license from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
usually a routine matter.
I. FREEDOM OF RELIGION
Islam is the state religion. Although followers of other religions
are free to worship according to their beliefs, there are some restrictions
on their other activities, including a ban on proselytizing. Virtually all
citizens are Muslims, either of the Zaydi branch of Shi'a Islam or the
Shafa'i branch of Sunni Islam. There are also some Ismailis in the north.
Private Islamic organizations may maintain ties to pan-Islamic organizations
and operate schools, but the Government monitors their activities.
Most Christians are foreign residents, except for a few families of Indian
origin in Aden. There are several churches and Hindu temples in Aden, but
no non-Muslim public places of worship exist in the former North Yemen. Church
services are held regularly without harassment in private homes or facilities
such as schools. However, security forces occasionally censor the mail of
Christian clergy who minister to the foreign community, ostensibly to prevent
Nearly all Yemen's once sizable Jewish population has 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.
J. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT WITHIN THE COUNTRY, FOREIGN TRAVEL, EMIGRATION,
In general, the Government does not obstruct domestic travel, although the
army and security forces maintain checkpoints on major roads. Human rights
groups reported several violent incidents at checkpoints during the years,
although responsibility for instigating the violence was not clear. In May,
Mohamed Thabit al-Zubeidi, a resident of al-Dhala, was shot and killed as he
crossed a checkpoint in that town. His companions returned fire, killing
three soldier. Three tribal sheikhs were killed at a checkpoint in Jawf in
August. It was not clear who was responsible for that incident.
In certain areas, armed tribesmen occasionally man checkpoints alongside
military or security officials, and subject travelers to physical harassment
The Government does not routinely obstruct foreign travel or the right to
emigrate and return. Journalists must have a permit to travel abroad. Women
must obtain permission from a male relative before applying for a passport
or departing the country. Enforcement of the restrictions on journalists
and women is irregular. In January the author and journalist Ali Abdulla
al-Kutheri and Mohsen al-Amoudi, both officials of the Rabeta party, were
arrested at Rayan airport near Mukallah when they attempted to board a flight
to Saudi Arabia. Their passports were confiscated temporarily. An Adeni
reporter Abdulrahman Ali Khubara was held for questioning by the authorities
following a trip to Cairo in August.
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.
The Government in 1997 offered first asylum to some 51,500 Somali refugees
who fled the fighting in that country. It also cooperated with the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in assisting refugees from
Eritrea (2,500 persons), Ethiopia (1,200 persons) and various other countries
(750 persons). The Government permitted the UNHCR to monitor the situation
of 20,000 Iraqis in Yemen.
The UNHCR provides food and medical assistance to up to 9,000 Somalis and
Ethiopians in a temporary refugee camp at al-Jahin in Abyan governorate.
Children receive schooling in the camp, and adults are eligible for vocational
training. The Government has approved a new UNHCR facility to be built at a
site in Lahaj governorate.
The law does not include provisions for granting refugee or asylum status
in accordance with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to
the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government has granted
refugee status to some persons and resettled them. Approximately 30,000
Somali refugees have now been integrated into society and are no longer
receiving food or financial assistance from the UNHCR. However, they still
are eligible for medical treatment at UNHCR facilities in Aden and Sana'a.
Also, the UNHCR provides small loans to refugee women who wish to initiate
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 700
Somali refugees to areas of Somalia that are considered safe.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their
Although the Government is by law accountable to the Parliament, there are
significant limitations on the ability of citizens to change their government.
International observers judged the 1997 parliamentary elections as "
reasonably free and fair" despite some problems associated with the
voting. However, the Parliament is not yet an effective counterweight to
executive authority. Decision making and real political power still rest in
the hands of a few leaders, particularly the President. The President
appoints the Prime Minister, who forms the Government. The Cabinet consists
of 24 ministers. Parliament is elected by universal adult suffrage; the
first such election was held in 1993.
The President has the authority to introduce legislation and promulgate laws
by decree when Parliament is not in session. Decrees must be approved by
Parliament 30 days after reconvening. In theory, if a decree is not approved,
it does not become law; in practice, a decree remains in effect even if not
approved. Although the Constitution also permits Parliament to initiate
legislation, to date it has not done so. Its major activity consists of
debating policies that the Government already has implemented. However,
despite the fact that the President's party enjoys an absolute majority in
Parliament, it has rejected or delayed action on legislation introduced by
the Government. The Parliament also has criticized strongly the Government
for some actions, including the June lifting of subsidies that led to
widespread violence. The Parliament also called on the Government to
investigate the continuing problem of violence, including bombings and
explosions, in the south. Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff attended
foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO)-sponsored training workshops
designed to increase their independence and effectiveness.
By-elections were held in four constituencies during the year in order to
fill vacant parliamentary seats. European observers reported no serious
problems with these elections.
The President is advised by a 59-member Consultative Council, a board of
appointed notables chaired by a former prime minister. The Council reviews
and advises the President on all laws that are submitted to the Chamber
of Deputies. The Council has no constitutional powers.
Government authority is centralized in Sana'a; many citizens, especially
in the south, complain about the inability of local and governorate entities
to make policy or resource decisions. In some governorates, tribal leaders
retain considerable discretion in the interpretation and enforcement of
the law. Central government authority in these areas is often weak.
The multiparty system is functional but arguably weaker than in 1993, when
the first parliamentary elections were held. The GPC clearly 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 at least
2,500 members. Some oppositionists complain that they cannot organize new
parties because of the prohibitively high legal minimums on the 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
elections, leading to lower voter turnout in the south than in 1993.
The Constitution prohibits the establishment of parties that are contrary to
Islam, oppose the goals of the Yemeni revolution, or violate Yemen's
international commitments. The Government provides financial support to all
parties represented in Parliament, including a small stipend to publish their
Although women vote and hold office, these rights often are limited by
cultural and religious customs. Two women were elected to the Parliament in
1997 (the same number as in 1993), and few hold senior leadership positions
in the Government or political parties. GPC members attended a foreign
NGO-conducted workshop on how to better include women in the party's
membership, leadership positions, and deliberations. Many Akhdam, a small
ethnic minority that may be descendants of African slaves, and some members
of religious minorities are not permitted to participate in the political
process, mainly due to their inability to obtain citizenship.
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.
Several groups held workshops and other activities during the year without
government interference and occasionally with government support.
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. The Government introduced a new draft law for regulating
the formation and activities of NGO's. While more liberal than the law
it is designed to replace, the proposal still contains significant limitations
on such organizations. The Parliament has yet to take any action on the
proposed new law.
Several new NGO's devoted to human rights education and democratization
have organized in recent years. The Taiz-based Human Rights Information
and Training Center (HRITC), the most prominent of these, has sponsored
training workshops for other NGO's. Several donors have contributed support
to the HRITC.
The Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Liberties and Human Rights,
the only NGO without government sponsorship that engages in human rights
advocacy as such, is based in Aden. Although the organization continued
to suffer from a lack of funds, it actively publicized human rights abuses,
particularly in the south. In September in conjunction with the Aden branch
of Amnesty International the organization sponsored a photographic exhibition
of human rights abuses committed in the course of the 1994 civil war.
The Committee to Combat Torture was formed in April. The Committee is
composed of 100 senior parliamentarians and party leaders, including some
opposition members. Several members of the Committee investigated the violent
incidents that occurred in al-Dhala in May and June in which four persons
died (see Sections 1.a. and 2.d.).
The Yemeni Human Rights Organization (YHRO) is the most well-organized local
human rights group. It is headquartered in Sana'a with branches in seven
other cities. It was founded by the Government, and oppositionists as well
as some human rights experts have viewed its findings as not objective.
However, the head of the YHRO, a prominent member of the judiciary, was
transferred in June from his post as head of the Sana'a Court of Appeals to
the Dhamar Court of Appeals. This was seen by some observers as a demotion
or an attempt by the Government to marginalize the judge, who was seen
as too independent on human rights questions. In May the YHRO sponsored
a training seminar for judges, prosecutors, and security officials.
The Center for Future Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Islaah
party, issues a report on human rights practices.
In June Prison Reform International (PRI), a London-based international
organization, conducted a fact-finding mission to Yemen. It identified several
issues of concern, including the mistreatment of prisoners, lack of education
and resources for prison officials, and unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.
In late 1998, the PRI opened a temporary office in Sana'a and organized
training workshops and other activities for prison and security officials.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Parliament of the European
Union, and the Committee to Protect Journalists observe the country closely.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintains a resident
representative in Yemen. The Government has given these groups broad access
to government officials, records, refugee camps, and prisons. The Government
had acknowledged some abuses alleged in a 1997 AI report and had promised
to investigate them. However, the Government rejected other allegations
in the Amnesty report.
The Supreme National Committee for Human Rights, which was formed in
1997 and reports to the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs,
is charged with ensuring that Yemen meets its obligations with respect
to implementing international human rights conventions. The Committee is
also expected to look into specific instances of abuse. In March the Supreme
Committee sponsored human rights education training in four cities. However,
the Supreme Committee has been less active in looking into specific cases
of abuse. Many persons alleged that the Committee has not followed up on
its stated commitment to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.
For example, the Supreme Committee declined to investigate the case of
Wadia al-Shaibani, who reportedly died while in the custody of security
forces in Aden (see Section 1.a.). Instead, the Committee accepted the
official coroner's report of death by suicide. The Committee is hampered
by a lack of human and material resources.
The Human Rights Committee of the President's Consultative Council had
limited success in investigating human rights abuses. However, members
of the Committee expressed frustration at the lack of subsequent action
by the authorities.
A parliamentary human rights committee has investigated some reports
of human rights abuses. It suffers from lack of official and financial
support and has no authority to do anything except issue reports.
The UNHRC, while maintaining a file on Yemen, elected to take no actions
against the Government during the year, pending an assessment of the
Government's action on current and past cases. Two delegations from the
UNHRC visited late in the year. The purpose of one delegation was to
determine what progress the Government had made on cases of
"disappearances" (see section 1.b.). The other conducted an
assessment of the Government's need for technical assistance, particularly
for the Supreme National Committee on Human Rights.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
Prior to 1994, the Constitution stated that "no discrimination shall be
practiced due to sex, color, racial origin, language, occupation, social
status, or religious beliefs." However, as amended in 1994, the
Constitution now states that "all citizens are equal in general rights and
duties". Discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and, to a lesser
extent, religion, exists.
Although spousal abuse is reportedly common, it is generally undocumented.
In Yemen's traditional society, an abused woman would be expected to take
her complaints to a male relative (rather than the authorities), who
should intercede on her behalf or provide her sanctuary if required. Only
recently has the press begun to investigate or report on violations of
Women face significant restrictions imposed by law, social custom, and
religion. Men are permitted to take as many as four wives, though few do
so. By law the minimum age of marriage is 15. However, the law largely is
unenforced, and some girls marry as early as age 12. During the year, some
conservative Members of Parliament attempted to eliminate the "minimum
age" requirement on the grounds that parents should decide when their
daughters are old enough to marry. Their draft law failed by a large
majority, leaving the minimum age at 15. A 1998 draft law to raise the
minimum age of marriage also failed by a large majority. The law stipulates
that the wife's "consent" 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 the former South
Yemen, the wife also signs. The practice of dowry payments is widespread,
despite efforts to limit the size of such payments.
The law stipulates 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. Theoretically women have the legal right
to divorce. However, in practice women divorce only when their husbands
have failed to provide for them. Following a divorce, 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
cannot remarry until she proves that she is not pregnant.
Women seeking to travel abroad must obtain permission from their husbands
or fathers to receive a passport and to travel. They also are expected to
be accompanied by male relatives. However, enforcement of this requirement
Islamic law permits a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman,
but no Muslim woman may marry outside of Islam. Married women do not have
the right to confer citizenship on their foreign-born spouses; however, they
may confer citizenship on children born in Yemen 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 Yemeni
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
Yemeni 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.
An estimated 80 percent of women are illiterate, compared with approximately
35 percent of men. The fertility rate is 6.7 children per woman. Most women
have no access to basic health care. Only approximately 16 percent of
births are attended by trained health-care personnel. Even where clinics
are available, many women do not use them because their male relatives, or
they themselves, refuse to allow a male doctor to examine them.
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.
A government-sponsored women's association promotes female education and
civic responsibilities, and an NGO also has been established for the same
purpose. Several women's groups have formed and registered with the
While the Government has asserted its commitment to protect children's
rights, it lacks the resources necessary to ensure adequate health care,
education, and welfare services for children. The U.N. Development Program
estimates that 30 percent of children are malnourished. infant mortality
rate is 105 deaths per 1,000 births.
The law provides for universal free education for 9 years, but this
provision is not enforced. Many children, especially girls, do not attend
primary school. An estimated 6.5 percent of primary school-aged children do
not attend. Some rural areas have no schools for their school-age population.
The Parliament in mid-year passed a law eliminating school fees and the
requirement of uniforms for girls. This law is designed to encourage girls'
attendance at school.
Child marriage is common, especially in rural areas. Although the law requires
that a girl be 15 to marry, it is not enforced. Marriages of 12-year
old girls are not unusual. Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely
condemned 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 engage in 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 is mainly confined to excision,
with infibulation being practiced only among East African immigrants and
refugees. FGM rarely is reported among the Shaf'ai religious sect, and
adherents to the Zaydi sect reputedly do not practice it at all. The
Government's publication of the data on FGM is an important first step in
addressing this problem. While some government health workers actively and
publicly discourage the practice, the Government has not passed legislation
to outlaw it, nor have women's groups adopted the problem as a major concern.
People With Disabilities
Persons with mental and physical disabilities face distinct social prejudices,
as well as discrimination in education and employment. The Government has
not enacted legislation or otherwise mandated accessibility for the disabled,
nor provided special clinics or schools for them. Many disabled persons are
reduced to begging in order to support themselves. Mentally ill patients,
particularly those who commit crimes, are imprisoned and even shackled when
there is no one to care for them. The ICRC, in cooperation with the Yemeni
Red Crescent Society, built and now staffs separate detention facilities for
mentally disabled prisoners. These new facilities are located in Sana'a,
Ibb, and Taiz, and collectively can care for a population of 300 persons.
Apart from a small but undetermined number of Christians and Hindus in Aden,
and a few Baha'is in the north, Jews are the only indigenous religious
minority. Their numbers have diminished dramatically--from several tens of
thousands to a few hundred--due to voluntary emigration. 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 real
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.).
In July a gunman murdered three nuns belonging to the Sisters of Charity order
in Hodeidah. The attack did not appear to be part of an organized campaign
against Christians or foreigners.
A hospital in Jibla operated by the Baptist church in the past experienced
occasional threats and harassment from local Islamic extremists who feared
that the hospital might be used to spread Christianity.
Yemenis with a non-Yemeni parent, called "muwalladin," sometimes
face discrimination in employment and in other areas. Persons who seek
employment at Sana'a University or admission to the military academy must
by law demonstrate that they have two Yemeni parents. Nonetheless, many
senior government officials, including Members of Parliament and ministers,
have only one Yemeni parent. In some cases, naturalization of the non-Yemeni
parent is sufficient to overcome the "two-Yemeni parent"
requirement. 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 squalor and endure persistent social discrimination.
There were reports by human rights groups that some immigrants of African
origin were having difficulty in securing Interior Ministry permission
to marry Yemeni citizens. An Interior Ministry regulation requires that
marriages of citizens and foreigners be approved in advance by the Ministry.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution provides that citizens have the right to form unions.
While the Government permits this right in practice, it also seeks to place
its own personnel in positions of influence inside unions and syndicates.
The 1995 Labor Law (amended in 1997) provides both for the right to form
unions and for the right to strike. For example, a strike is not allowed
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
favor of the proposal. Strikes for explicit "political purposes" are
prohibited. In practice the law tends to discourage strikes. The law provides
equal labor rights for women, and it renews 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 Yemeni Confederation of Labor Unions (YCLU) remains the sole national
umbrella organization. The YCLU claims 350,000 members in 15 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 it to be in its best
By law civil servants and public sector workers, and some categories of farm
workers, may not join unions. Only the General Assembly of the YCLU may
In September there was a 2-day strike by personnel of the Yemen-Hunt
The YCLU is affiliated with the Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and
the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions.
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; such agreements exist. Unions may negotiate wage settlements for their
members and can resort to strikes or other actions to achieve their demands.
The law protects employees from antiunion discrimination. Employers
do not have the right to dismiss an employee for union activities. Employees
may appeal cases of antiunion discrimination to the Ministry of Labor.
Employees also may take a case to the labor courts, which are often favorably
disposed toward workers, especially if the employer is a foreign company.
There are no export processing zones.
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 specifically prohibit forced or
bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices And Minimum Age For Employment
Child labor is common, especially in rural areas. Many children are
compelled to work in subsistence farming because of the substandard
economic situations of their families. Even in urban areas, children may be
observed working in stores and workshops, selling goods on the streets, and;
begging. The law does not specifically prohibit forced or bonded labor by
children, but such practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
The established minimum age for employment is 15 in the private sector
and 18 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 regarding compulsory education for children, and the likelihood that
many school-aged children are working instead of attending school is high.
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
At the suggestion of the Swedish NGO Radda Barnen (Save the
Children), the Government in late 1997 established a national
inter-ministerial committee to combat child labor. It is headed by the
Minister of Labor and includes representatives of various government
agencies and nongovernmental groups. The Government is working to develop a
national strategy, a work plan, and a time frame for completion of its
activities. It is also consulting with the International Labor Organization
in formulating its strategy.
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." According to the Ministry of Labor, the average minimum
wage of civil servants for 1994-95 was approximately $45 to $53 (6,000
to 7,000 riyals) per month. Private sector workers, especially skilled
technicians, do far better. The average wage does not provide a decent
standard of living for a worker and a family. A combination of inflation,
the loss of government-provided subsidies, and an erosion in the exchange
value of the national currency has eroded wages substantially during the
past few years.
The law specifies a 40-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: 6 hours per day Saturday
through Wednesday, and 5 hours on Thursday.
The Ministry of Labor has the responsibility for regulating workplace
health and safety conditions. However, according to officials in the
Ministry, the requisite legislation for regulating occupational health is
nonexistent. They claim that many workers regularly are exposed to toxic
industrial products and respiratory illnesses. Some foreign-owned companies
implement higher health, safety, and environmental standards than the
Government requires. Workers have the right to remove themselves from
dangerous work situations and can challenge dismissals in court.
©Copyright 1999, Yemen Times
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