Legal Insight Environmental Laws in Yemen [Archives:1997/45/Law & Diplomacy]

November 10 1997

There are basically four laws in the Yemen that address environmental issues. Conservation measures regarding sea life and the costal environment are not new issues. Below is a brief outline of each law which tends to regulate man’s intrusion in an area vital for future generations. Let’s look into the Yemeni legislation regarding this problem: Law No. (42) of 1991: This law regulates and protects sea life. It aims to control over-fishing in the territorial waters of the republic, and regulates the registration of individuals and companies who intend to fish. The law also forbids the use of alternative / environmentally unfriendly means of fishing, such as the use of chemicals or dynamite. The law goes on to address and regulate the selling and marketing of fish as well to protect sea life by preventing over-fishing, and the over-cultivation of underwater weeds plants . The law clearly forbids factories, laboratories and dealers in chemicals to throw or discharge chemical and petro-chemical substances into the sea water unless those chemicals or petro-chemicals are diffused, and may no longer harm sea life.
Law No. (11) of 1993: This law protects marine life against pollution. It focuses mainly on preventing vessels from polluting Yemeni waters; and to that effect the law orders vessels not to discharge into the sea any substance that can pollute (a list of which is provided and defined by law), and that polluting substances should be carefully handled, and submitted to the proper authorities in the Yemen, in accordance with the regulations (also listed in the law). The law clearly addresses both criminal and civil consequences that might be invoked as a result of polluting. The law gives full power to the Public Corporation for Marine Affairs (PCMA) to intervene and investigate and regulate pollution, and to that aim gives them full authority to board any vessel, as well as detain the same, if necessary. The law goes on to list the penalties for the various types of offenses, as well as list the prison sentences for breaching the law. The law also gives the right to the (PCMA) to evaluate the damage to the environment and bring a civil suit against the party who caused the harm. The law devotes a full clause addressing oil companies that explore, produce or ship oil and orders them not to pollute, and to use all the necessary safeguards to prevent and/or fight pollution if it occurs, and to abide by employing modern pollution fighting equipment in accordance with international standards.
Law No. (26) of 1995: This law is related to the protection of the environment. The above law, recently passed, engulfs all the above mentioned laws, and discusses all environmental issues including but not limited to current issues, such as global warming, the greenhouse effect, recycling as well as preventing further deterioration of the surrounding environment by prohibiting the use of particularly harmful pesticides and insecticides. The law also reiterates what the other laws state and clearly forbids any practice that will harm the environment, and in the same way lists both the criminal and civil consequences for breaching the law. To monitor the environment and prevent pollution, the law empowers the Council for Environmental Protection (CEP) to act as environmental police, and gives them full authority to investigate and to some extent, punish offenders. In general the law treats the environment as a whole and looks into ways in which to minimize and prevent harm to mother earth.
Law No. (12) of 1994: This law handles the crimes of pollution and their punishment. Given the seriousness of pollution, and the harm and losses that may result, the criminal law applies a maximum of ten years imprisonment sentence to those who put the life of individuals at risk by polluting waters, or other environments which may cause death or serious injury. The question to which the above laws will apply, if pollution occurs, can be basically summarized as follows: “The general law will apply unless there is a specific law drawn to address the issue.” In other words, Law No. (26) of 1995 regarding the Protection of The Environment for example, will generally apply and be invoked if pollution occurs. If however the pollution was one made at sea by a vessel, then Law No. (11) of 1993 regarding the Protection of Marine Life from Pollution will apply, which is a law drafted for that specific type of pollution. With private funding agencies funding both governmental and private sectors, the country is witnessing noticeable moves (especially from the small private local organizations) in this field. Small private environmental organizations, with highly qualified members, are starting to go (nosing) around large, exploring and producing companies, asking to take samples of soil and water. Interest from organizations such as these may lead to the unraveling of important findings.
By Khaled T. Abdullah, Law Offices of Sheik Tarek Abdullah