Bridging the Gap [Archives:1998/04/Front Page]

January 26 1998

between Yemen’s Pledges and Practices: WORKING ON HUMAN RIGHTS
On paper, the human rights record of Yemen looks good. The country has acceded to the conventions, signed the documents, outlined good policies, and generally, Yemeni officials say the right things. In practice, the story is quite different. From the outset, it should be noted that although there are politically-motivated human rights violations, the main abuse is due to social, cultural, economic, and other reasons. In other words, the institutions that are responsible for the violations do not have properly-trained cadres or the resources to observe the rights of the citizens. Now, a number of human rights advocates are pushing for a meaningful understanding and implementation of human rights in Yemen. Here are some examples.
1. Training Effort: The World Bank, European Union, and several bilateral donors have undertaken programs to educate and train Yemen’s officer and judicial corps. Directors of security offices, directors of criminal interrogation departments, prison wardens, district attorneys, judicial staffers, judges, etc., are all targeted for local, regional and international training and re-education.
2. Inviting Critics: Human rights advocates, journalists, pro-democracy persons, parliamentarians, and others make up a long list of potential visitors to Yemen. During a visit to Brussels last week, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, Chairman of the Human Rights, Civil Liberties and NGOs Committee in the Consultative invited British, German, French and Dutch members of the European Parliament to visit Yemen. In addition, several critical journalists have been invited to come. ý
3. Establishing Human Rights Bodies: Over the last few weeks, two important human rights bodies have been formed. The first is the Yemeni Institute for Human Rights Awareness (YIHRA), an NGO which is guided by independent Yemeni human rights advocates. This body is attempting to establish a hot-line to communicate with victims, and to document cases of abuse. The second is an inter-governmental body which brings together the main ministries and government bodies which handle (or rather mis-handle) human rights. They include the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Justice, the Political Security Office, the Attorney General, etc. This committee is to undertake training of its personnel on the one hand, and to explain the Yemeni view to the critics on the other.
4. Transparency International: As a corollary to the human rights issues, there is an on-going effort to clean-up. Dr. Al-Saqqaf is establishing contact to interest Transparency International in Yemen. The Berlin-based organization is an international NGO fighting corrupt government and business practices. A delegation representing the organization is expected to visit Sana’a during March, with the hope of setting up a Yemeni branch. This effort falls within the framework of the overall reform package which the government of Dr. Faraj Bin Ghanim is pushing. “The human rights issue cannot be left to the lip service of the government. We need a genuine commitment. At the same time, over-politicizing the issue or using in the political posturing and bickering of politicians will not help,” said Al-Saqqaf.