Human Rights Key Factor in Our Future [Archives:1997/48/Viewpoint]

December 1 1997

I want to raise a number of points regarding human rights.
General Observations: 1. The issue of human rights, and more generally how politicians govern their people, are no longer an internal matter. They concern all humanity. 2. The USA and Western Europe have taken on themselves the duty to champion and police human rights worldwide. 3. Unfortunately, the enforcement is neither universal nor even-handed. As a result, the issue of human rights has become a political tool often misused, as politically expedient. Yemen’s Commitment: 1. As a recipient nation of foreign aid, the Republic of Yemen is forced to satisfy minimum human rights requirements. 2. Yemeni politicians say that they believe in the virtue of human rights of ‘our own will and values’, irrespective of the foreign factor. 3. There have been visible improvements in the human rights record in Yemen over the last few years. Yet glaring violations still exist, thus requiring more work. 4. Much of the problem is due to ignorance and autocratic culture rather than a premeditated political action.
Making Yemenis See Light: 1. In the past, the West has gently and indirectly alluded to the need for improving Yemen’s human rights record. 2. Over the last few months, direct observations were made in annual reports and during visits here by Western officials. 3. More recently, an effort has been made to bluntly corner Yemeni politicians. Take two examples: a- The British Parliament issued on 13th November a statement indicating that it was not happy with the Yemeni human rights record. The statement was issued while President Saleh was in London, on an official visit to the UK. The man was jolted by it. b- The Gulf/Middle East Working Group (permanent representatives of the member states) of the European Union was deliberating on Tuesday, 25th November, the case of Mansoor Rajih, whom Amnesty International classified as prisoner of conscience. In another room in the same building, Foreign Minister Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani was signing a cooperation agreement with the EU. He was made to feel uncomfortable by the deliberations next door. What the Future Holds: 1. It is clear to me that the regime in Sanaa can no longer give lip service to the issue of human rights, decentralization of decision-making, political participation by everybody, and real democratic practices. 2. It is not logical to ask the old vanguards to do new things… Things they do not understand, let alone accept. 3. Yemen’s smooth working relationship with the world in general, and with the West in particular, will depend on how sincerely the system honors such morally superior values like human rights, press freedom, minority rights, full participation by all citizens, decentralization, etc. Western governments itself may sometimes look the other way regarding our violations. But what an honorable achievement it would be if we Yemenis on our own insisted on full respect for human rights.

By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher