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Amnesty International Report 1996 - Yemen

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1996
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1996 - Yemen, 1 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa050.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Scores of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, were detained without charge or trial. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment were widespread, and one prisoner reportedly died in custody. The judicial punishment of flogging was widely used and at least 14 people were sentenced to amputation of limbs. The fate and whereabouts of hundreds of people who "disappeared" in previous years remained unknown. At least seven people died in circumstances suggesting that they might have been extrajudicially executed. At least 41 people were executed. Hundreds of foreign nationals, including many recognized refugees, were forcibly returned to their countries. Serious human rights abuses against civilians were committed by armed political groups.

A new penal code and a code of criminal procedures, enacted in October 1994 as a result of the unification of the former Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in 1990, were enforced throughout the country. The penal code provides for corporal punishments, such as flogging and amputation, and the death penalty, including stoning to death. Many provisions of the code of criminal procedures fall far short of internationally agreed standards.

Following consideration of Yemen's second periodic report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in April, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Yemen should undertake "…a thorough review…of the legal framework for the protection of human rights…to ensure full conformity with the Covenant". No such review was known to have been initiated by the end of the year.

Scores of people, including prisoners of conscience, were arbitrarily arrested on political grounds by the Political Security (PS) force, particularly in ‘Aden, Abyan and Sana‘a. They were invariably held incommunicado for the first weeks or months and were denied access to lawyers throughout their detention. Those held included critics of the government, members of opposition parties and people suspected of having links with the al-Jabha al-Wataniya Lilmu‘ardha (MOG), National Front for the Opposition, an opposition organization based abroad.

Fadhl ‘Ali Mubarak, a journalist with the daily newspaper 14 October, was arrested with others in January by the PS in Abyan after issuing a leaflet criticizing the authorities' failure to implement the general amnesty announced by President ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh during the civil war in 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995). They were detained for over a month before being released without charge. In May Fadhl ‘Ali Mubarak was rearrested, together with another group of people, including Hussein Muhammad Nasser, President of the Union of Journalists in Abyan. They were reportedly suspected of having links with the MOG. All were detained in the PS headquarters in Abyan for over a month without charge or trial and denied access to lawyers.

Arrests of suspected political opponents intensified following demonstrations in various parts of the country against an increase in fuel and domestic gas prices announced by the government in March. Widespread arrests of members of various opposition parties were reported in ‘Aden, Abyan, Dhamar and Hudaida. Some were interrogated and released, but others were detained by the PS for weeks or months.

The majority of those arrested were suspected of having links with the MOG. Nabil Ahmad ‘Abd al-Karim al-‘Amudi and ‘Adil ‘Ali Ahmad Mahdi al-Yazidi were among a group of students from ‘Aden University arrested in May and detained in the PS headquarters in ‘Aden until August, when they were released. All were initially held incommunicado and were allegedly tortured during interrogation.

At least 21 political prisoners, including one prisoner of conscience, all under sentence of death imposed after unfair trials, remained held. In August 1988 the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Mansur Rajih, a prisoner of conscience imprisoned since 1983 (see Amnesty International Report 1995); the sentence had not been ratified by the President at the end of the year. Twenty suspected members of the National Democratic Front (NDF), an opposition group in the former YAR, also remained on death row (see Amnesty International Report 1995). The death sentences against some of them were upheld by the Supreme Court while others were still pending an appeal at the end of the year.

A number of political prisoners, including possible prisoners of conscience, detained in 1994 were released. They included 29 members of Hizb al-Haq (see Amnesty International Report 1995) who were released without charge between January and April. Amin Ahmad Qasim, a businessman arrested in December 1994 reportedly for his business connections with the Yemeni Socialist Party (see Amnesty International Report 1995), was released in June. He had initially been held incommunicado by the PS in Sana‘a and had been under house arrest since January. His son, Ghassan Amin Qasim, was arrested by the PS in March and detained for a month before being released without charge.

The trial of three people, charged with carrying out bomb attacks in ‘Aden during July and August, began in October in ‘Aden. The defendants stated in court that they had been tortured during interrogation in order to extract "confessions" from them. The court apparently agreed to a request that the defendants be medically examined, but it was not known whether any examination was carried out. The trial of Adam Salah al-Din Mansur, an Algerian national (known also as Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman), and 20 Yemeni nationals, began in December in Sana‘a. Eight were tried in absentia. Charges against them included the murder of members of the security forces during an armed clash which reportedly took place in September in al-Dali‘. Both trials were still in progress at the end of the year.

Torture and ill-treatment of political detainees and common law prisoners were widespread. Many of the political detainees held by the PS, particularly those held for their suspected links with the MOG, were allegedly subjected to beatings and other ill-treatment during interrogation. A number of critics of the government, including academics, journalists and writers were tortured after being abducted by unidentified groups believed to be connected with the PS. Among the victims was Abu Bakr al-Saqaf, a philosophy professor at the University of Sana‘a and an outspoken critic of the government. He was abducted in January outside his house in Sana‘a, and again in December. On the first occasion, he and Zin al-Saqaf, a friend, were abducted by five armed men, one of whom was wearing military uniform. They were driven to a deserted area in the south of Sana‘a where they were severely beaten. Zin al-Saqaf's arm was broken. The victims sought investigations into the incidents, but no findings were known to have been made public by the end of the year.

A number of common law prisoners alleged that they were tortured in prisons and detention centres. Muhammad ‘Abdallah al-Hayd alleged that he and dozens of other prisoners held in Si'UN Prison were beaten with iron bars while their legs were shackled and their hands tied behind them; urinated on; and walked on by soldiers or guards while forced to lie naked on slabs of concrete.

At least one person was reported to have died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about a death in custody in 1994. ‘Ali Bin Salmin Bin Qawiran al-Qirzi, aged 65, reportedly died in an army prison in al-Makalla in May or June. He had apparently been detained by members of the armed forces in al-Makalla in order to force his son, who was suspected of theft, to give himself up. Mu‘adhab Suleyman Salih died in July 1994 after 24 hours in the custody of the criminal investigation police in Hudaida, reportedly as a result of torture. His lawyer and relatives requested an investigation, but by the end of 1995 no investigation was known to have been carried out.

The judicial punishment of flogging was widely imposed, particularly on those convicted of consumption of alcohol. In some cases floggings were carried out in public. At least 14 people were sentenced to amputation in April by a court in Sana‘a. Five of the 14 defendants were convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to cross-amputation of the right hand and the left foot. The other nine were convicted of theft and sentenced to amputation of the right hand. The court verdict was believed to be subject to appeal but the outcome was not known.

The fate of hundreds of people who "disappeared" in previous years remained unknown (see previous Amnesty International Reports). In October the government announced that mass graves, believed to contain the bodies of people who "disappeared" in the former PDRY in 1986, had been discovered near ‘Aden airport. The President reportedly ordered an investigation into these "disappearances", but did not apparently state whether cases of people who "disappeared" before and after 1986 in both the former PDRY and YAR, and since the civil war in 1994, would also be investigated.

At least seven people were reportedly shot dead in June when security forces in ‘Aden opened fire on supporters of the ‘Aden football team who were protesting after a dispute between their team and a team from Sana‘a. No investigation into the killings was known to have been carried out. It was feared that the killings might have been extrajudicial executions.

At least 41 people were executed during the year. Most were believed to have been convicted of premeditated murder, although one, a Sudanese national executed in September in Sana‘a, was reportedly convicted on charges that included witchcraft. Hundreds of people, most of whom had been sentenced in previous years, were believed to remain under sentence of death at the end of the year.

In August the government reportedly deported more than 3,000 foreign nationals it claimed were living illegally in Yemen. They included hundreds of people, mainly Somali nationals, who had been recognized as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In November, 280 other Somali refugees were reportedly detained in a prison in Ta‘z, but it was not known whether they were at risk of being sent back to Somalia.

Armed political groups were reported to have committed grave human rights abuses, including killings of members of religious minorities. In April, two people from the Al al-Husseini tribe were reportedly shot dead by an Islamic group, the Sheikh Baker Group, in Tarim, Hadramout. The killings were said to have occurred when members of the Al al-Husseini tribe intervened to stop the desecration of the graves of holy men in Tarim by the Islamic group. The President was reported to have ordered an investigation into the incident, but no findings were known to have been made public by the end of the year. In September, one man was shot dead and seven others were wounded in Haraz. The eight, all members of the Bohara religious minority, were reportedly ambushed by an armed Islamic group on their return from a religious ceremony.

In some instances, human rights abuses by some Islamic armed groups appeared to have been carried out with the acquiescence of the authorities. In May an armed Islamic group in Lahj, said to be connected with the Jihad movement, flogged a defendant, Qassim Jubran, before his trial on charges of consumption of alcohol was concluded by the al-Huta court. The group also stopped the defence lawyer, Bader Ba Saneed, at gunpoint and physically assaulted him in the presence of the judge and an Amnesty International trial observer. Both the flogging and the attack on the lawyer were carried out in full view of local government forces who made no attempt to intervene.

Amnesty International continued to call for an end to the detention of prisoners of conscience and for their immediate and unconditional release. The organization also continued to call for prompt and fair trials for all political prisoners; for investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, "disappearances", killings by government forces and armed groups; and for the commutation of the judicial punishments of flogging and amputation, and of all death sentences. In May an Amnesty International delegation visited Yemen and raised the organization's concerns with government ministers and other officials.

The government responded positively on some cases of arbitrary arrest and released the detainees. However, no clarification was provided regarding the killings by security forces in ‘Aden or the abduction and beatings of individuals.

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