In Hosting 2nd Human Rights [Archives:1997/39/Law & Diplomacy]

September 29 1997

Workshop, Yemeni Human Rights NGOs Get Bigger Boost
A workshop on human rights training was held in Sana’a during 13-19 September. Organized by the Arab Institute for Human Rights and the Human Rights Information and Training Center (Taiz), the training courses targeted mainly human rights NOGs in Yemen. Lectures, workshops, and discussion sessions were conducted by highly qualified Arab and Yemeni specialits. Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor interviewed some of the participants at the workshop.
Dr. Abdulbasset Bin Hassan, the Director of the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) and professor of human rights at the Tunis University.
Q: Could you tell us a little about this course? A: This is the second course organized by AIHR in Yemen – the first was in 1993. We have come back to Yemen because of the encouraging atmosphere which is conducive to observing the NGOs’ activities. I am very glad for the frank discussions and the respect accorded to the other opinion. There is a lot of enthusiasm and desire for more knowledge on part of the Yemeni participants. The Yemeni government is also very much interested in human rights issues. The Prime Minister personally attended the final session to emphasize the new developing mentality regarding basic human rights.
Q: When was the AIHR established? A: The AIHR was established in 1989. With the support of the UN Center for Human Rights, AIHR took part in founding the Arab Lawyers’ Association and the Tunisian Lawyers’ League. AIHR consists of several departments: studies & research, training, publishing & communications, and other administrative units. Moreover, helping the AIHR are committees of experts and university researcher such as the Women’s and Scientific committees. Around 40 researchers from various Arab countries are involved in the Scientific committee, who meet once a month to evaluate and analyze the AIHR activities. The AIHR’s board consists of members from the Arab Lawyers’ Association, the Arab Human Rights Organization, the UNESCO, and the UN.
Q: Are all Arab countries represented in the AIHR? A: The AIHR is an independent organization, which doesn’t rely on representation. We cooperate with experts and researchers from various Arab countries who conduct field surveys and send us their findings.
Q: What sort of publications does AIHR produce? A: We mainly publish things related issues concerning women, human rights, children’s rights, etc. There are also few periodical publications such as the Arab Journal of Human Rights, Al-Rassed – a translation of the UN’s Monitor, and the bi-annual Human Rights Periodical. Four issues of the latter had already been published, dealing with topics such as the universality and particularity of human rights, violence, freedom of expression, and other crucial issues related to human rights. Several books on the rights of the child have also been published by AIHR, some of which are written in a simplified language. Various types of posters and pamphlets on human rights are also published by AIHR.
Q: What do you mean by the universality and particularity of human rights? A: Some people claim that the issue of human rights is governed by national characteristics unique to every country or nation. We are trying to present human rights as a universal concept built on the idea of equality and human dignity. This is an absolute concept, not governed by individual cultural, religious, political, or economic characteristics. The concept of universality is an old one that was gradually built.
Q: Do you think it necessary to introduce human rights into university education programs? A: Yes, this is a top goal for us. We’ll present a unified program in our next meeting in Beirut. We’ll call on all Arab governments to incorporate this program in their education systems. It must be introduced into all levels of education, not only universities. It is also very important that the media be involved on a large scale. Next year will hopefully witness a lot of activities involving training journalists to deal with human rights issues. A journalists’ training course may be held in Yemen.

Ms. Lamyaa Qarar, head of the training department in AIHR.
Q: What sort of training courses does AIHR organize? A: There is a 15-day general training course annually held in Tunisia for middle cadres in Arab NGOs. This course has theoretical and practical aspects. Second, is the Anabtawi course. Dr. Mondher Al-Anabatawi is a Palestinian professor and one of AIHR’s founders. There are also specialized courses. This year, for example, a training course will be held for the benefit of Arab journalists and university professors on the issue of teaching human rights to university students. National training courses such as the one held in Yemen concentrate on national mechanisms such as the constitution which can protect human rights. These courses become more effective for the process of human rights protection within the laws and legislations. The support of the UN Center for Human Rights is quite valuable in conducting these courses.
Q: How do you find human rights NGOs in Yemen? A: I noticed that people in Yemeni NGOs possess a lot of awareness of the issues for which they work. Coordination among NGOs is vital for their success. Differences in plans, goals and work procedures are normal, but there must be a coordination of efforts.
Q: What are your impressions of the Yemeni participation? A: We are quite surprised at the magnitude of knowledge and experience exhibited by many Yemeni professors and academics. Unlike many academics who leave immediately after their lectures, the Yemenis provided a lot of time for discussion and positive interaction. ý
Q: Does the AIHR face any problems in distributing its publications in Arab countries? A: There are many obstacles in this area. They are now normally distributed in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco. We sincerely hope that we’ll be able to do the same in Yemen and other Arab countries.
Mr. Ahmed Karu’d, a Tunisian expert on human rights training and education.
Q: Do all Arab countries take part in such training courses? A: Only Arab countries with NGOs take part. The countries that have not participated up to now are Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman. Some of these countries such as Saudi Arabia, however, have previously participated in other seminars such as the one on prison reform in 1991. Kuwait, Iraq, Mauritania, and Sudan have taken part in this year’s course. I think the matter of language hinders the participation of countries like Somalia and Djibouti. The Libyan Lawyers’ Syndicate has also taken part.
Q: What are the AIHR’s other activities? A: In addition to the regular national training courses, a program to qualify trainers has started this year. People who have the desire to train others in the field of human rights are trained within three circles. We hope to create nuclei of trainers and trainees in Arab countries to help the AIHR in planning and organizing its training courses.
Q: Can human rights NGOs be more active in Yemen? A: Our workshop discussed the conditions of NGOs in Yemen. There are few structural weaknesses and financial problems in some of the NGOs. Also, their cadres need more training. However, I felt that there is a great desire on part of all NGOs in Yemen to improve their conditions and the skill of their staff. I also found the authorities quite responsive to the needs of these organizations.

Mr. Izzuldeen Saeed, the director of the Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRIT) in Taiz. ý
Q: What is the role of HRIT? A: The main mission of the HRIT can be summed up in two points: spreading awareness and providing expertise on human rights issues. The first aspect is served by holding workshops and training courses for both governmental and non-governmental organizations. The media play a big role in this matter. As for providing the necessary expertise, we have already published more than 135 titles on human rights. Although this is a somewhat modest contribution, but it is a step in the right direction.
Q: What activities have you conducted recently? A: During last month, the HRIT held special workshops for organizational structure and administration. There are plans for 1998 to hold two training courses and three workshops for the benefit of NGOs.
Q: How can Yemen benefit from training courses such as the ones held by Arab Institute? A: Such workshops lead to raising public awareness, spreading general legal knowledge, and awareness of the international mechanisms for protecting human rights. In particular, such activities benefit teachers, media representatives, and many others.
Q: Is this the first course? A: A similar course was held in 1993 by the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg. We have found out that Yemen has many qualified people in this field who can train others to the job. In the future, we’ll be able to organize local workshops through the efforts of wholly Yemeni experts.