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Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Yemen have been subjected to harassment, threats, arbitrary arrest, threats of fabricated prosecutions, physical attacks, surveillance as well as restrictions to their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Following events in Tunisia and Egypt, peaceful mass protests broke out in Yemen during the early months of 2011. They were met with excessive force, which included the use of tear gas and live ammunition. On 18 March 2011, 45 protesters were shot dead in Sana'a, an incident that prompted widespread international condemnation and –on the very same day– the declaration of a state of emergency.
The state of emergency granted the authorities far-reaching powers that have also been utilised to hinder the works of HRDs and journalists. Despite recent progress towards a political transition, which may also provide space for greater respect for human rights, change has so far been limited and a law on transitional justice and reconciliation has yet to be enacted.
The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression “within the limits of the law” (Article 26). In practice, a number of restrictions exist, both in law and in practice, on the enjoyment of this right. Journalists, HRDs and independent academics are seen with suspicion by the authorities. The Security Police have at times arrested HRDs at gun point, with methods resembling an abduction, and have held them incommunicado.
Journalists have been targeted and arrested for documenting and writing about the mass protests. Article 103 of the Press and Publications Law bans criticism of the head of the state and any publication that “might spread a spirit of dissent and division among people” or might threaten “national unity” or distort the image of the State. Under the Press and Publications Law, all publications must obtain a license, which must be renewed on an annual basis.
The 2001 law on associations and institutions and its implementing regulations include a number of restrictions and barriers to the establishment and independent running of associations. In particular, civil society organisations cannot be founded or acquire legal personality without approval by the competent authority. Compulsory legal overseeing by the government threatens the independence of civil society organisations. The 2001 Law introduced new restrictions such as the requirement on each organisation wishing to obtain a license to make a deposit of 1 million rials (approximately € 3430).
Most human rights groups have operated until recently without legal recognition. Some progress has been recorded since the regime change following the presidential elections in February 2012 and a number of organisations have since been able to obtain registration.
Civil Service Law No.19 (1991) protects the right of employees to organise, as does the Trade Unions Law No. 35 (2002). Affiliation with public service trade unions has been actively discouraged and extensive categories of public servants are prohibited from joining unions. Despite the clear statutory protections, the government attempted to stymie union activity and has engaged in harassment, including by filing malicious complaints with the Office of Public Prosecution against trade unions or their members .
Public gatherings require permission by the authorities. Individual human rights defenders attending protests have been assaulted and arrested. Assaults or other attacks against HRD occurred also outside of protests, and in one case an HRD had the wheels of his vehicle sabotaged, which caused the tires to explode while driving. The offices of human rights organisations have suffered arson attacks as well as attacks with heavy weaponry.
A number of HRDs and public servants and military employees who participated in or supported the 2011 revolution suffered retaliation by the administration: some had their university studies suspended; others were fired from their positions, had their salary or part of it withheld, or were transferred to other locations suddenly and without explanation.
The situation for women HRDs is very challenging due to the conservative environment. Gender-based slurs and abuses have been used to intimidate and silence women's rights defenders.
02 November 2011
26 May 2011
26 May 2011
20 August 2010
30 March 2010
Yemen: Human Rights Defender Mr Ali Al Dailami stopped at Sanaa airport and his passport confiscated
Yemen: Human rights defender and blogger Ms Huda Jaafar subjected to on-line threats and abusive messages
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