In Spite of Visible Improvements, [Archives:1998/02/Front Page]

January 12 1998

Yemen’s 10,000 Prisoners Endure Hard Conditions: CC Human Rights Committee Issues Stunning Document
The Human Rights, Liberties and NGOs Committee of the Consultative Council (CC) embarked on a whirlwind field visits to inspect several of the main prisons of the Republic of Yemen. A delegation headed by Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, head of the committee, visited the central prisons of Sanaa, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Taiz, and Aden, in addition to some of the smaller jails in the secondary cities of those governorates. The committee filed its initial findings – a document of fifteen pages – which included a lot of data and revealing information. The document also presented many options for action. At the immediate level, many prisoners who were in jail without proper legal basis were released. Some of those who had near-completed their prison sentences have also been released. The total number of persons released was 112, including half a dozen children, eight women, and three persons who were clearly sane, but had been put in one of the mentally disturbed ‘homes’. In the longer term, the document called for re-structuring of responsibilities among the three bodies which are responsible for the prisons – the Ministry of Interior, the District Attorneys, and the courts. It also called for changing the persons in charge of the Hajjah and Aden prisons, as well as other changes. Other suggestions include setting up local committees that bring together the official and community elders in order to address prison needs and conditions. At any one time, there are about 10,000 prisoners in the formal prisons of Yemen, and the total annual prisoner turnover (1997) is around 85,000. Among these some 6% are foreigners, coming especially from East Africa and Arab countries.