Widespread violations of human rights in Yemen continued during 2013, with the government showing limited capacity to improve the situation. The government failed to establish a commission of inquiry into the alleged human rights violations during the 2011 uprising. The death penalty remained on the statute book, and conflict-related violations by government forces continued. Women faced discrimination in all aspects of their lives and child marriage persisted. The humanitarian situation also remained critical.

Some progress was made. The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) made a number of positive recommendations, notably to introduce a minimum legal age for marriage, and renewed commitments to pass a law on transitional justice and establish a commission to investigate the alleged human rights violations in 2011. Women and youth were well represented at the NDC, and a bill to establish a national human rights commission was drafted. The conclusion of the NDC is a positive step in Yemen's transition. But effective implementation will be a challenge. For Yemen's human rights situation to improve, the government will need to work quickly to enshrine the NDC's recommendations into the new constitution and enforce them by law.

In 2013, the UK sponsored the UN Security Council Resolution "Strengthening efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage". As co-chair of the Friends of Yemen group, the UK also urged the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the alleged human rights violations in 2011, and encouraged the implementation of the recommendations made by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR). Former Minister for Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, and Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan, raised human right issues during visits to Yemen.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (DFID) funded a number of human rights related projects. For example, DFID provided operational and technical support to the NDC, contributing £3.7 million to a multi-donor UN Trust Fund, and will provide additional assistance through this fund to support the drafting of the constitution in 2014.

At Yemen's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2014, the UK lobbied the government on the death penalty, transitional justice, and human rights violations by government forces. The UK's operational effectiveness in-country is expected to remain limited by Yemen's challenging security situation.


Following the conclusion of the NDC in January 2014, the government issued a Guarantees Document that sets out the executive tasks needed to prepare for a constitutional referendum and presidential and/or parliamentary elections. DFID is contributing £7 million to support the work of the Supreme Commission for Election and Referenda on voter registration and delivery of the referendum and elections, as well as on risk-based security planning to minimise the likelihood of elections-related conflict.

Freedom of expression and assembly

Yemen has enjoyed more freedom of expression under the transitional government. However, Yemen is still ranked 169 out of 179 by the World Press Freedom Index and, in 2013, Reporters Without Borders indicated an increase in threats and violence against journalists.

Whilst some peaceful protests were held by various groups in the south, the OHCHR reported repression by government forces of a pro-south independence demonstration in February.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders (HRDs) continued to be persecuted. According to Amnesty International, the whereabouts of some individuals detained for their participation in the 2011 uprising is still unknown. Many families of those detained are not aware of their relatives' whereabouts, despite seeking information from the government.

Yemen has a growing civil society. British Embassy officials regularly met HRDs in Sana'a. Mr Burt, Mr Duncan and Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the UK Civil Service, also met groups of political activists during visits to Yemen. The UK will continue to encourage the government to end harassment, threats, and arbitrary arrest of HRDs and human rights organisations.

Access to justice and the rule of law

The government failed to establish the commission to investigate the alleged human rights violations in 2011, and violations by government forces continued with the shelling of a funeral tent in the al-Dali governorate in south Yemen in December. However, positive steps were made to establish a national human rights institution. The UK will continue to encourage the government to pass a law on transitional justice, and to offer support to establish the inquiry into the alleged human rights violations in 2011, and investigations into human rights violations by government forces.

The government of Yemen acknowledges a weakness in the rule of law, with Yemen still transitioning from confession-based prosecutions to those based on evidence. The judiciary is still subject to government interference, and judges and lawyers continue to face intimidation.

The Ministry of Interior introduced a new role of Inspector General to counter corruption and address human rights violations. The UK continued to influence Ministry of Interior reform through the work of the UK Rule of Law and Policing attaché. The attaché is a member of the UN Human Rights coordinating group, which seeks to improve the transparency and legitimacy of the Ministry of Justice. The UK also funded a project through Tsamota (a security and justice sector consultancy) to provide forensic training to the Yemeni police, judiciary and officials in the Ministry for Human Rights.

Death penalty

The death penalty remained on the statute book for crimes such as kidnapping, drug trafficking, rape and offences under Sharia law. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle, and remains concerned by the continued execution of juvenile offenders, which is prohibited under Yemeni law. In March 2013, Mohammed Haza'a was executed despite uncertainty over his age at the time of the offence. According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), a number of juveniles remain on death row.

The UK will continue to encourage the government to introduce a moratorium on executions with the intention of abolishing the death penalty, and also to improve methods to determine the ages of all defendants, such as by improving birth registration rates.


In 2013, media reported that migrants from the Horn of Africa were being captured upon arrival in Yemen and taken to camps where they were tortured to extort their family details. Families were then contacted by the perpetrators to demand payments for the migrants' safe release. The UK is concerned by these reports and urges the government to take immediate action to end the practice and ensure that all perpetrators are brought to justice.

Conflict and protection of civilians

Yemen suffers from several ongoing and interconnected conflicts. Targeted attacks on political and military personnel and infrastructure continued, with some allegedly linked to elements of the former regime.

Conflict and violence had serious implications for human rights. In the last quarter of 2013, the northern governorates saw a resurgence in violent armed conflict, resulting in the displacement of more civilians. It is estimated that more than 300,000 people remain displaced. Humanitarian conditions deteriorated following clashes in Dammaj and Kitaf areas (Sa'ada Governorate), in Al-Faj (Hajjah Governorate), and in Khaiwan and Wadi Danan (Amran Governorate). According to medical and other local sources, an estimated 200 people were reportedly killed and 600 wounded in Dammaj alone.

Yemen was one of the 138 countries that endorsed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which was launched at the UN General Assembly by the Foreign Secretary and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Women's rights

Yemeni women continued to face social and political discrimination. The UN Development Programme Gender Inequality Index ranked Yemen 148 out of 148 countries. The practice of child marriage has continued, with no minimum age of marriage or consent.

Some progress on women's political participation has been made, with females holding 126 of the 565 seats at the NDC and chairing two of the nine working groups. The NDC recommended greater political, economic and cultural freedoms for women, and a minimum age of marriage of 18 years. Elsewhere, however, progress on women's rights has been reversed. Owing to their greater capability and resources, networks of independent women activists who were active in Tahrir Square have been co-opted by political parties. This has resulted in the suppression of women's voices and relegation of women's rights to narrow party political interests. Educated women still struggle to play a significant role in the political transition, whilst the vast majority of poorer women lack the capacity to engage meaningfully in the political process.

In June, the UK hosted the Arab Women's Business Conference, which brought together the private sector, the G8, Arab transition countries, and regional partners. The conference raised the profile of the role of Arab women in the global and regional economies and discussed how economic opportunities and business environments could be improved for women. The UK also funded a project in the Hodeidah governorate to enable widowed and divorced women to become more financially independent. In September, the UK co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council resolution to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early, and forced marriage.

Children's rights

Despite the government's commitment to end the practice, the OHCHR reported that children continue to be recruited into armed conflict. Human Rights Watch also reported that nearly 50,000 children were prevented from attending school in order to participate in a Southern Movement disobedience campaign. UNICEF reported the killing of children in attacks against schools and hospitals in the southern governorates in December. Child labour also remains an issue.

The NDC recommended the introduction of a minimum age of 18 for recruitment into the army, and that children should not be employed in work. The UK will encourage the government to enshrine these recommendations in the constitution and law, and to implement its action plan to eliminate child soldiers.

Other issues

Economic and social rights

Yemen remains the poorest country in the Middle East, and is ranked 160 out of 187 by the UN Development Programme's Human Development Index. Yemen suffers from high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. Around ten million Yemenis do not have the food that they need each day, an increase of nearly 50% since 2011, with five million in urgent need of food assistance. 13 million are without access to safe water or sanitation, and 7.7 million have no access to health care.

As part of the UK's support, DFID is delivering a £196 million three-year operational plan dedicated to development and reducing poverty in Yemen. £70 million was committed for the humanitarian response until 2015. The UK is the first humanitarian donor to provide multi-year funding in Yemen, so as to provide more predictable allocations given the changing needs. DFID is also supporting nutrition interventions through UNICEF and delivery of basic services through the Social Fund for Development.


Large migration flows – including refugees and economic migrants mostly from the Horn of Africa – are increasingly prone to human trafficking and smuggling. Asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are mainly spread along the west and south-west coasts, and are extremely vulnerable to human rights violations, and also lack access to basic services and food.


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