Human rights:Why we are behind, how to move forward [Archives:2004/701/Viewpoint]

January 8 2004

Preparations for the upcoming The “Sana'a Regional Conference on Human Rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court” to start next Saturday is an opportunity to analyze why Yemen and neighboring countries are behind and how to move forward in enhancing human rights.
Human rights violations have continuously been and continue to be a scar in our countries' progress towards democracy and freedom. Without respect to human rights, we, as nations seeking democracy will go nowhere.
But to start with, we need to identify why we have been unconcerned about human rights for so long. Why are prisoners kept in cells without sentences, why female prisoners are abused without any action by authorities, and why the poor continue to suffer from lack of basic goods needed for living decently?
The participants must admit that all of those are indeed happening, and that is the first step towards the solution. Then we must understand why law enforcement is not justly carried out, and how financial corruption is leading to corrupt judges issuing unjust verdicts convicting innocent people without enough evidence.
Yemen needs to be appreciated for taking the initiative in holding this important conference. Hence, it should be the first to start introducing major reforms in developing the understanding of human rights, all human rights of its citizens.
Neighboring countries should also help in introducing ideas and comments that would help bring the required change urgently needed throughout the Arab world.
There has been a lot of talk in the past by officials in Yemen and other countries claiming to have committed themselves towards democratization, but apart from talking, very little has been implemented in the ground. What we need right now is a change of heart and real commitment for change.
Recently I was proposing that the Political Security Organization reveal how many prisoners they had and why they have been held. I even proposed to have a website about this organization that many human rights activities have complained is indeed a major human rights violator. Why not bring transparency to the way the organization works, and why can't the regime in Yemen start showing us that it can indeed bring the change needed to properly associate the propaganda that we see with action on the ground?
I believe it is about time to prove that the participating governments are indeed eager to promote human rights as they say they would. This conference could be the start for some solid action.
Let's hope that deeds would follow words after the last plane carrying the last participant leaves the country.