American Bureau: Despite efforts, there are many concerns for human rights in Yemen [Archives:2007/1039/Front Page]

April 5 2007

The latest human rights practices report issued by American Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, showed that significant human rights problems existed in some areas, such as limitations on citizens' ability to change their government due to corruption, fraudulent voter registration, and administrative weakness. Torture and poor prison conditions existed in some prisons. Prolonged pre-trial detention and judicial weakness and corruption were also problems. There were some limitations on press freedom. Pervasive corruption within the government, discrimination against women, and instances of child labor and child trafficking occurred. The government took several steps to reduce corruption, including removing and investigating several judges accused of malfeasance, passing a financial disclosure law for government officials, and establishing an independent anticorruption authority with civil society representatives.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, during the year there were some reports of tribal kidnappings, traditionally committed to attract government attention to a particular grievance. During the year torture continued to remain a problem in PSO prisons, which were not systematically monitored by other government agencies. During the year the government trained over 300 MOI officers on the illegality of torture.

The primary state security and intelligence gathering apparatus, PSO, and the National Security Bureau (NSB) reported directly to the president. Many of NSB's duties were not clearly delineated and appeared to overlap with the PSO. The police CID reported to the MOI and conducted most criminal investigations and arrests. The Central Security Organization, also a part of the MOI, maintained a paramilitary force. Corruption was a serious problem, and there were no government investigations of police corruption during the year.

Some police stations reportedly maintained an “internal affairs” section to investigate abuses, and any citizen had the right to raise an abuse case with the prosecutor's office. Enforcement of the law and effective investigations were irregular.

The number of political prisoners, if any, was unclear, and human rights activists were unable to provide data on political prisoners or detainees.

While physical attacks against journalists decreased during the year, government harassment, including threats against journalists and their families, brief imprisonment, and personal surveillance continued.

The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) defended freedom of the press and publicized human rights concerns. The YJS was vocal in condemning recent government actions that closed several publications and imprisoned journalists. Women Journalists Without Chains also publicly supported human rights and press freedoms.

According to local human rights observers, the government blocked some Web sites during the presidential and local council campaigns prior to the September 20 elections. Human rights and other NGOs complained that the government restricted what journalists may write and how citizens used the Internet through a variety of means of intimidation. Internet access was readily available from homes or Internet cafes.

There is a widespread perception of corruption in every branch and level of government. Government officials and parliamentarians alike were presumed to benefit from insider arrangements and embezzlement. Procurement was a regular source of corruption in the executive branch.In March the Central Organization for Control and Audit (COCA), the country's investigative body for corruption, reported that between its creation in 1999 and 2005, COCA had investigated 518 official cases of corruption, of which 361 were filed with COCA in 2005, which resulted in a loss to the treasury of $24.7 million (4.86 billion riyals). At year's end of the 518 cases, 490 had been sent to the judiciary for action, while the remaining 28 cases were still under COCA's consideration. COCA's reports were rendered to the parliament but were not made accessible to the general public. Only low-ranking officials had been prosecuted for corruption since COCA's inception. The actual number of corruption cases was generally.