Human Rights Violations: What Really Needs to Be Done [Archives:1997/39/Viewpoint]

September 29 1997

Let me start from a basic fact – there are many human rights violations in Yemen today. This is part of the underdeveloped reality of the country.
But there are two issues I would like to raise in this regard, as follows: ý
1. Non-Politically-Motivated Violations: Irrespective of the few sensational human rights violations of political nature that are propogated by the media, most of the violations are really not politically motivated. As a modern system is being developed, the old values and practices continue to cast long shadows over the present reality. In my opinion, these non-politically-motivated violations are the ones which need to be addressed. Let us use examples: a- If any one is arrested for whatever reason, that person’s rights are immediately compromised, especially during interrogation.  b- In many factories and business enterprises, the work rights of the employees and workers are compromised. c- In many homes, the rights of women and children are violated randomly and at whim. d- In most courts and prisons, the rights of the different parties are not observed. e- In many a government bureaucracy, the rights of individuals, especially if they come from not so influential backgrounds, are often abused. The examples can go on and on. The relatively rare political abuse of human rights has eclipsed by far the more prevalent daily predicament of the ordinary citizen. It is here that more attention is needed. The loud noise of the politicians has over-shadowed the real need for improvements in human rights concerning the mass population.
2. One-Sided Stories: A European friend who is now collecting information on possible human rights projects to be financed by the European Commission visited my office last week. She casually mentioned that she thought the coverage in the West of the Yemen human rights situation is sensational and one-sided. “If I were to agree with these reports, I would conclude that I live in ahorrible country, which is not the case,” she said. A friend who accompanied her to the meeting, added, “You know when there is a violation, thousands of fax messages are sent and telephone calls are made. This is a well-orchestrated effort by the Yemeni ‘opposition’ in exile. But when the state tries to find answers and corrects the violations, no fax message is sent or telephone call is made.” Indeed, one of the worst parts of human rights reporting is the politicization of the issue. People use it to haunt a system for political ends, which at end, weakens the very cause of human rights.
If more meaningful change is to be made in respect for human rights, the daily violations against the rights of ordinary citizens have to be addressed. This means introducing new values through education and re-education. One clear target is to train law-enforcement agencies and officers on the rights of citizens and how to respect them. Another has to do with re-training of prison wardens and personnel.

Editor-in-Chief and Publisher:  Prof. Abdulziz Al-Saqqaf