Letter : Twelve Pressing Priorities to Improve Human Rights Situation in Yemen Submitted to New Government for Consideration
Twelve Pressing Priorities to Improve Human Rights Situation in Yemen Submitted to New Government for Consideration
HE, Mr. Khaled Mahfouz Bahah, Prime Minister,
Subject: Twelve Urgent Priorities to Improve the Human Rights Situation in Yemen
We, in Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, extend our compliments to you and wish you success in your mission.
Referring to the subject above, we present you with this letter, which includes twelve pressing priorities concerning the situation of human rights in Yemen. We urge your government to include the same in its agenda, transforming them into executive decisions and actions to stop the appalling deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and realize significant progress in this regard.
It is well known that Yemen is classified as a fragile country, inflicted with unstable political and security circumstances. This, in turn, adds a huge responsibility on your shoulders to deal with a series of challenges at all levels, mainly with regard to the human rights situation, which, however, your government will have to tackle with a high sense of responsibility, taking into account the interests of millions of citizens (men and women) who are aspiring for real change in their daily lives.
According to Peace and Partnership Agreement (PPA), your government should prepare within thirty days of its formation a consensual work program. In its Preamble, PPA has emphasized on the application of the principles of law, equal citizenship, and respect for human rights. The protection and dissemination of these principles, in fact, lie in the heart of your constitutional, legal, and moral duty, albeit you may face huge challenges by the obvious deteriorating situation of the human rights situation in the country.
In its capacity as a defender of human rights, Mwatana Organization presents you with this letter as a contribution in support of these principles, in order to stop the terrible and severe deterioration of the human rights situation, put an end to the impact of damage, injustice and abuse suffered by thousands of citizens as well as to the behavior of abuses and injustices, and shape up a future free of the sins and grievances of the previous stages. You find below a summary of the top-most 12 priorities that you and members of your government cabinet should consider, adopt, and implement so as to improve the human rights situation during the coming stage, come up with positive indicators, and open a clean slate for a new Yemen dominated by law and respect for human rights.
It is to be noted that these priorities have been prepared based on the Organization’s follow-up of and engagement with the human rights situation during the past period. They are also based on the counsel of experts and researchers specialized in human rights issues inside and outside the Organization. Our organization hopes that these priorities will be included among the top tasks of this government’s program (under preparation), and transformed into effective decisions, actions and mechanisms.
1. Rule of Law
The human rights situation in Yemen has been witnessing terrible deterioration, aggravated on a daily basis by the absence of the state authorities due to the state’s relegation of its constitutional and legal duties in relation to protection of the rights of citizens to militia. This militia undermines the state’s sovereignty as the only legitimate representative of the law, and imposes its own law by force of arms. Considering that the imposition of law and order is the basis for the existence and legitimacy of any state, the status quo, however, makes it imperative for your government to put human rights at the top of the priorities of its agenda. As a public interest, and according to PPA, the government should first put an end to the violations committed against citizens on a daily basis, and prohibit the carrying of arms in cities and the spread of the militia in all governorates of the Republic. Further, the government should put an end to private prisons, and impose state power through its competent authorities, upholding the rule of law as the embodiment of protection, prosecution and justice, and handling its various powers and tools associated with managing people’s lives and addressing people’s problems (i.e. police departments, prosecutors, courts, etc.).
2. Transitional Justice
Your government is responsible to make Transitional Justice move in the right way so as to put an end to human rights violations and impunity policy, and redress injustices committed against thousands of victims of violations during past stages. The government should start with a review of the stalled draft Transitional Justice Law, rectify defects contained therein, align it with international principles for Transitional Justice, and set up implementation mechanisms, procedures and committees.
It is well known that your government has inherited a thorny and complicated dossier containing dozens - perhaps hundreds - of cases of enforced disappearance, especially victims of political conflicts since 1962 (in both the north and south of the country) until today. This issue represents an on-going offense involving all previous successive administrations - by not taking the initiative to solve them, and by collusion to keep such cases in the dark - thus making all those governments no less than conspirators in heinous actions classified as crimes against humanity. Therefore, your government has an opportunity to address this file in a fair and comprehensive manner, and end the suffering of the victims (both the disappeared victims and their families) by initiating comprehensive measures that can put an end to this crime, detect and close secret prisons, reveal what has happened to the disappeared victims and ensure non-recurrence of such serious violations.
We, in Mwatana Organization of Human Rights, along with the families of the victims, hope that your government will make real, serious and radical solutions to close this file by implementing the following actions: 1) stop the crime of enforced disappearance and disclose what has happened to all victims; 2) disclose and shut down all secret detention centers; 3) form a committee to investigate cases of enforced disappearances since 1962 and treat this file comprehensively and fairly; 4) urgently ratify international laws and covenants regarding protection of all persons from enforced disappearance; 5) urgently issue a decree to ensure protection of all persons from enforced disappearance.
3. Investigation into Assassination Incidents and Disclosure of Facts
Yemen has seen a wave of assassinations of political and military figures. Such incidents foment tension and anxiety, and fuel and perpetuate the cycle of violence and injustice. The failure of security agencies to investigate those incidents, reveal the truth, and prosecute perpetrators and masterminds has increased the negative effects on the overall peace condition and undermined citizens’ confidence in state’s organs and institutions.
We believe that your government should urgently implement transparent mechanisms to investigate these assassinations, using the best expertise available locally and internationally to get to the truth, and prosecute perpetrators and masterminds as soon as possible in order to close this file.
4. Security Agencies Reform
Your government should restore state’s sovereignty and prestige, re-energizing the performance of its organs and institutions, most notably by reforming the security sector - i.e. regulating the work of police departments and intelligence under judicial control; addressing the cases of illegally detained victims; training the cadres of police departments and intelligence to respect the principles of human rights; proposing bills and issuing directives to criminalize violations of human rights; emphasizing on the need for these apparatuses to exercise their functions within the limits of the constitution and law; and detecting and shutting down all secret prisons.
5. Human Rights Violations
- Violations during the upheaval of 2014:
The confrontations that took place in Sana’a from 17 to 22 September, 2014 between Ansar al-Allah (Houthis) and government troops have left dozens of dead and wounded civilians, including women and children, in addition to detainees. Such upheaval has also caused destruction and looting of civilians’ properties and public facilities (e.g. homes, hospitals and institutions). The government bears responsibility to treat the effects, and develop appropriate mechanisms to administer justice to victims.
- Violations during the upheaval of 2011:
Since 2011, Yemen has been witnessing extremely egregious and heinous violations of human rights as a result of political events and conflicts. The government should deal with all such violations by formation of an independent commission of inquiry, as stipulated in the relevant resolutions and recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council, and High Commissioner for Human Rights. This should be done as part of a clear mechanism to ensure transparent, impartial and fact-revealing investigations, provide for fair accountability, administer justice to the victims, and put an end to the behavior of violations combined with impunity policy. The above-mentioned violations include the following:
§ Extrajudicial killings in attacks on protesters and civilians during the 2011 protests in Sana’a, Aden, Taiz and other governorates.
§ Arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and torture in the backdrop of protests and the associated events.
§ Detention of five persons pending presidential mosque bombing - they are Ibrahim Hamoud Al-Hammadi, Abdullah Saad Al-Te’ami, Ahmed Mohammed Ali Amer, Ghalib Al-Aizari, and Shoaib Mohammad Al-Bajeri. The government should adopt a legal settlement in the courts to ensure their immediate release. According to Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (of which Yemen is a signee), a person charged with any crime should appear before the court without undue delay. The General Comment No. 32 of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which is in charge of the interpretation of the Covenant, states that the defendants should be tried promptly in cases where the court denies them bail, that this guarantee shall not be limited only to the period of time between the charge and the time of the trial, but also covers the period of time until the final judgment on the appeal, and that this must be carried on all stages, whether in front of courts of first instance or on appeal courts, “without undue delay “.
- Violations against Southern Movement (Hirak):
The government forces targeted the protests of the southern movement since its inception in late 2007 using deadly force, detentions, enforced disappearances and torture, and leaving behind dozens - probably hundreds - of victims who should be covered by equity measures. Such practices should be stopped; the right to peaceful expression of southern movement activist should be ensured; and there should be rectification of the roots of the problems and grievances that led to the emergence of this protest movement since the war of 1994.
6. Promoting Seeking Justice through Official Judiciary Authorities and Enhancing their Role
The responsibility rests with your government to promote and activate the role of judiciary authorities being the only official party entitled with jurisdiction over people and entities, adjudication of disputes, issuance of incrimination/acquittal of individuals and entities regarding any charges attributed to them, determination and enforcement of penalties, administration of justice, protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, maintenance of respect for the law, and prohibition of any person or group to confiscate the judicial function of the state bodies under any circumstance or justification.
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provided by the United Nations General Assembly and ratified by Yemen states that all persons are equal before the law and everyone has the right to a fair trial and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law when looking at any criminal charge against him, or against his rights and obligations in a civil suit.
It is to be noted, however, that since the events of September 2014 Ansar Allah Group (Houthis) has put its hand by force of arms on a number of facilities owned by civilian entities or individuals, and transferred and annexed a lot of such properties to the Group’s ownership. It is the responsibility of your government to restore all public and private properties confiscated by Ansar Allah Group ever since they seized control of Sana’a and other governorates, and deliver the same to the legally authorized government bodies. The government should also make legal authorities have the final say in such properties according to the requirements of law and the principles of justice such that the original owners can exercise their right to appear before the court and defend their claims. This a requirement applies to all similar cases.
7. Support Women and Girls and Reduce Gender Inequality
The international gender-index in the Human Development Report 2013 ranked Yemen last among 148 countries. Yemeni women bear multiple effects of each conflict cycle, and deterioration of security, political and economic conditions. Due to the insecurity in the previous period, practices of discrimination and violence against women were on the rise. Crimes of abduction and rape of women and girls increased. Women were also doubly affected in various areas of development, because the lack of basic services increased women’s burdens, particularly with regard to reproductive health services. Cases of early marriage among girls have risen as a result of the spread of poverty in the areas that experienced armed conflicts.
Thus, the treatment procedures necessitate that more attention and efforts are exerted in all aspects pertaining to Yemeni women’s lives, especially rural women. Action must be taken to ensure that primary education is compulsory, reduce girls drop-out, and impose mechanisms to regulate implementation control. Besides, the planning and preparation of the 2015 National Budget should pay attention to women’s issues, gender-sensitivity, and activation of the role of women in the structures of all executive bodies and local authorities.
8. Promotion and Protection of Children’s Rights
- Determination of Childhood Age (males and females):
This should be included among the priorities with regard to violations of rights of children (male and female), and lead to the adoption of decisions, legislations and procedures defining the adulthood age as 18 years. This is also an urgent priority that will help to address many abuses affecting children.
- Recruitment of Children:
During the events in the past years, all the conflicting parties used children as combatants, including government forces, and are still continuing to recruit children so far. It has almost become a phenomenon, despite warnings and demands to keep children away from conflicts and wars. Therefore, we demand the government to include in its program a clear mechanism to end the recruitment of child soldiers and reintegrate them into society in accordance with the international principles and conventions on the prohibition of child recruitment, and in accordance with the obligations of previous governments.
- Early Marriage:
The phenomenon of early marriage of young girls represents an assault on the rights of the child, a practice that represents a flagrant violation of the right to life and natural growth, Maternal mortality rate came to be 365 deaths per 100,000 live births, which means that eight women die every day in Yemen, third of whom are under the age of 19. The negative effects of this phenomenon extend to education and health, in addition to several negative social effects. Therefore, it is your government’s responsibility to adopt legislation, procedures and mechanisms to put an end to this phenomenon, including determining the minimum age of marriage at 18 in accordance with the international conventions in this regard.
- Child Labor:
The deterioration of the economic, political and security situation has led to increasing the burden of children, and sent to the labor market thousands of children who dropped out of school. The government has a responsibility to put an end to the phenomenon of child labor, and develop plans, mechanisms and decisions to ensure rehabilitation of the victims of this phenomenon.
9. Ban Controlling and Using Schools during Conflicts
During the recent events in the various governorates, schools were (and some still are) used as military barracks by government forces and armed militias. It is imperative for the government to carry out its responsibility to vacate schools from militants immediately, rehabilitate affected schools, and provide a suitable environment for education.
As this phenomenon is not new - but rather took place during every armed conflict since 2006, leading to the damage in more than 500 schools (some were completely destroyed), and thus depriving tens of thousands of children of their right to education - it should be made clear that the use of schools for military purposes is a grave violation of children’s rights. It is incumbent on the government to seek legislative laws and regulations that criminalize and punish the occupation and use of schools for military purposes.
10.Insurance of Justice for the Marginalized
Your government must work to ensure a fair treatment for the marginalized, taking steps to ensure compensatory justice and reintegrate them into society, through primary and secondary education and allocation of fair quota of seats in university education at home or abroad. This is in addition to fair employment opportunities, social security, and housing services. The government should work to invalidate all policies and practices in all state institutions that would contribute to the social exclusion of this category.
11.Insurance of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Mwatana Organization demands your government to promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression, liberating the media from subordination to the government and promoting independence of the media in order to ensure the ability of media to perform their function in monitoring and publishing as the fourth estate. As media work involves several parties, including the government, there must be an end to abuses against journalists, especially by those hostile to the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The government bears responsibility to initiate action to ensure that Suhail TV and Yemen Today TV retrieve their confiscated equipment so that these channels can re-broadcast.
12.Cessation of Armed Conflicts and Treatment of Effects
The government should put an end to the conflicts waged in several governorates (Saada, Amran, Al-Jawf, Sana’a, Abyan, Al-Baidha, Ibb, etc.) and pay attention to the conditions of displaced people inside and outside IDP camps. It should also promptly take action to address the causes that led to their displacement from conflict zones, ensure that they are not subjected to any harassment by the warring parties, and address the partial or total damage sustained by civilian properties, infrastructure and public properties in conflict zones so as to provide a suitable environment for the displaced people to return to their homes and live their lives in a normal way. The government bears responsibility to immediately treat the casualties of these conflicts, look after the families of the dead, carry out reconstruction, and prepare a lasting peace building plan that can address the roots of these conflicts and prevent their resumption or recurrence.
As Mwatana Organization puts forward these pressing priorities in the hands of your government and cabinet members, we hope that you will consider them seriously and responsibly, include them in the government program under preparation, and then implement them, given their vital importance as a basis to promote an atmosphere of security, stability, justice, and protection of human rights.
Finally, Mwatana Organization wishes you success in your mission, hoping that you would take into account the remarks stated in this memorandum, which are aimed to assist the government in performing its duties towards citizens with a sense of responsibility, insight and professionalism.
Please accept our sincere thanks and appreciation.
Mwatana Organization for Human Rights
President of the Organization
10 November 2014
About Mwatana Organization for Human Rights
Mwatana Organization for Human Rights is an independent Yemeni organization involved in defending and protecting human rights, and operates through field investigations and research to produce accurate and objective accounts of the facts regarding its mandate and mission in order to detect and stop human rights violations. It attempts to provide support and justice to victims, hold accountable those in violation of human rights, and produce effective guarantees in legislation and policies that ensure the prevention of repetition of such violations.
The organization operates through several tools, including:
* Monitoring and documentation: Through field visits to research about the facts of violations, hear witnesses, examine evidence and clues and inspect them in light of local laws and international conventions, and publish the same in a statement or report containing conclusions, recommendations, and Organization’s demands.
* Studies and Research: Conducting of strategic studies concerned with special human rights issues, aiming to get a clear picture of the issue under study and coming up with summaries and treatments.
* Advocacy and Lobbying: Exercising pressure on those responsible for the implementation of recommendations and demands indicated in the findings of reports, studies and research conducted by the Organization via a special circle concerned with advocacy and lobbying.
* Legal Support: Providing legal aid to victims of human rights violations before the courts and prosecutors of various security apparatuses through professional lawyers.
* Training and Coaching: Training and coaching of cadres of human rights, and providing them with the necessary skills to enable them to deal with the technical and substantive human rights issues efficiently and objectively in different levels of human rights activism.
* Awareness Boosting: Boosting public awareness to all rights through various awareness activities.
* Brochures and Publications: Mwatana Organization issues booklets and leaflets as appropriate to serve the issues promoted by the organization.
* Contact Details:
Mwatana Organization for Human Rights
Tel: + 967 1 464987
Fax: + 967 1 537824
Mobile: +967 774155555
Web site: www.mwatana.org