Human Rights Ministry calls for the release of 166 indebted prisoners from central prisons in Yemen [Archives:2008/1189/Local News]

September 11 2008

By: Reyadh Al-Sam'ie
A report issued by the Ministry of Human Rights calls on the government and charitable people to pay the debts of poverty-stricken prisoners, in order for them to be released and also to alleviate the government's fiscal burden of maintaining them in prison.

The report was produced after visits paid by Huda Al-Ban, Minister of Human Rights, to central jails in a number of Yemeni governorates during the past four months. Following these visits, dozens of indebted prisoners were released, and many orphans and poor families were given financial support.

Prepared by the ministry, the report recommends that all incumbent bodies conduct a periodical evaluation on the situation of these prisoners, as part of the country's planned reform programs. It said that, in light of these evaluations, jail employees should improve any shortcomings in order to achieve planned targets. The report stressed the necessity of either activating surprise judicial inspections in all prisons, or of making the Prison Authority a part of the Ministry of Justice.

The report also recommended that a specialized physician and medical equipment be provided in every jail.

According to the report, the Ministry of Human Rights' visits were carried out based on directives of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. These directives stated that funds allocated to public celebrations should be instead redistributed to needy citizens, including indebted prisoners. Following these directives, the ministry received around YR 20 million from the government, who thereby showed its dedication to improving the situation of prisoners in the country.

The visits, paid to governorates of Aden, Taiz, Abyan, Lahj, Ibb and Sana'a, also resulted in the release of 166 prisoners, 95 of whom were released after the ministry paid the due amounts stated in their judicial verdicts. The other 71 prisoners were released after having completed three quarters of their sentence.

The report indicated that the amount of money donated to release prisoners together with the financial support provided to other prisoners amounted to YR 10 million.

Another YR 10 million was spent in the form of assistance to 1000 children in the Lahj governorate including 928 male and female orphans, 22 handicapped children, 10 deaf and dumb children and 40 paralyzed children. YR 1 million was spent on providing 600 female and 400 male orphans in the Lahj governorate with clothes and another YR 1 million was offered to100 poor families in the governorate of Aden.

Al-Ban paid her first visit on 19 May 2008 to the Central Prison in Sana'a, during which the minister paid YR 180,000 to release 15 poor prisoners, in addition to YR 75,000 to the released prisoners in order to enable them to go home to their families. The minister also paid YR 20,000 to release two female prisoners who learned the Holy Quran by heart while in prison.

The report said that Al-Ban's second visit was paid to Al-Mu'allimi jail in Sana'a where 361 people were imprisoned at the time, despite the jail's capacity of 200 people. The report revealed that prisoners in the jail suffer from malnutrition, the spread of infectious diseases and a lack of financial support. During the visit, the ministry paid the amount of YR 50,000 in order to release one of the prisoners. Additionally, students who had been kept in custody on minor charges were also released on bail so that they could pursue their studies.

Al-Ban visited the Central Prison in the Aden governorate on 25 May 2008. The report said that Aden's jail was found to be in need of renovation in most of its departments. Seventy prisoners were released after the ministry paid YR 2 million to set 21 prisoners free and gave every released prisoner YR 5,000 as transportation allowance.

During her visit to the Central Prison in Lahj, the minister of Human Rights visited and paid YR 1,200,000 to release 12 prisoners and granted each of them YR 5,000 as transportation allowance. Al-Ban then visited prisons in the Abyan governorate, where 20 prisoners were released and given each YR 5,000, and YR 150,000 was donated to help one of the female prisoners get married. The minister also visited the Central Prison in Abyan and donated YR 1,772,000 to release 18 indebted prisoners. Three other prisoners were released as they had completed three quarters of their sentence.

The report said that the last visit was paid to the Central Prison in the Taiz governorate this past month. During the visit, YR 1,500,000 was donated to release 20 prisoners who were given YR 5,000 each for transportation. YR 50,000 was offered as support to the jail's health unit.

It added that the minister paid YR 250,000 to the Financial Affairs Department of the Attorney General's Office as part of the due amount imposed on the female prisoner Amina Hassan Nasser. The attorney general promised to pay the balance of her debt and release her.

The report concluded that education and entertainment means should be provided for prisons to enable prisoners to learn and improve their general knowledge, and to prevent them from returning to prison in the future.