U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Yemen
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Yemen, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1e2.html [accessed 23 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
YEMENThe Republic of Yemen, comprising the former (northern) Yemen Arab Republic and (southern) People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, was proclaimed in 1990. The first democratically elected parliament was convened in 1993. Following a brief but bloody civil war in mid-1994, the country was reunified under the rule of the Sana'a-based government. Later in 1994, a new postwar governing coalition was formed, composed of the General People's Congress (GPC) and the Yemeni Grouping for Reform (Islaah). Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh is the President and leader of the GPC. He was elected by the legislature in 1994 to a 5-year term. A constitutional amendment provides that henceforth the president is to be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates selected by the legislature. Parliamentary elections were held in April, with the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), formerly the main party of the south and a previous coalition partner, leading an opposition boycott. The GPC won an absolute majority of the new parliament. International observers judged the April parliamentary elections, which, like the 1993 voting, were held on the basis of universal adult suffrage, as reasonably free and fair. However, the Parliament is not yet an effective counterweight to executive authority. Real political power rests with a few leaders, particularly the President. The judiciary, nominally independent, is weak and severely hampered by corruption, executive branch interference, and the frequent failure of the authorities to carry out sentences. The primary state security apparatus is the Political Security Organization (PSO), which reports directly to the President. It is independent of the Ministry of Interior. The Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the police conducts most criminal investigations and makes most arrests. The Central Security Organization (CSO), a part of the Ministry of Interior, maintains a paramilitary force. The civilian authorities did not maintain effective control of the security forces. Some members of the security forces, particularly the PSO, committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. Yemen is a very poor country. Its embryonic market-based economy, despite a major economic reform program, remains impeded by excessive government interference and endemic corruption. Its annual per capita gross national product (GNP) is estimated at $325. Agriculture accounts for approximately 18 percent of GNP and industry for approximately 8 percent. Oil is the primary source of foreign exchange. Other exports include fish, agricultural products, cotton, and building materials. Remittances from citizens working abroad (primarily in Saudi Arabia) are also important. Remittances were sharply reduced after Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states expelled up to 850,000 Yemeni workers during the Gulf War because of the Government's lack of support for the U.N. coalition. The Gulf states also suspended most assistance programs, and much other western aid was reduced. Foreign aid is beginning to reemerge as an importance source of income. The Government's human rights record continued to be poor, although late in the year the Government took initiatives to combat some human rights problems. There are significant limitations on citizens' right to change their government. There were unconfirmed reports of extrajudicial killing by some members of the security forces. Some members of the security forces tortured and otherwise abused persons. Prison conditions are poor. Some members of the security forces continued to arbitrarily arrest and detain citizens, especially persons still regarded as separatists. PSO officers have broad discretion over perceived national security issues, and, despite constitutional constraints, routinely detain citizens for questioning, mistreat detainees, monitor citizens' activities, and search their homes. The Government rarely held members of the security forces accountable for human rights abuses. Indeed, the security forces sometimes countermanded orders from the President and the Interior Ministry. After a series of bombings incidents which began in Aden in August, security forces rounded up more than 120 suspects, most of whom were held in incommunicado detention for several weeks without formally being charged. Eventually most of the detainees were released, two groups of 27 and 31 persons, respectively, were brought to trial in connection with the bombings, amid charges of violations of the rights of the accused. Security forces made additional arrest after a series of bombings in October. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process. The Constitution limits freedom of speech and the press, and the Government harassed, intimidated, and detained journalists. Journalists practice self-censorship. The Government imposes some restrictions on freedom of religion. 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 by some families, especially along the coastal areas on the Red Sea; although publicly discouraged, the authorities do not prohibit it. In reaction to a March report by Amnesty International (AI), the Government announced that it would investigate some of the issues raised, including cases of disappearance, arbitrary arrest, and torture, in addition to the situation of women. However, it rejected some of AI's allegations.