SILVER LININGAddressing human rights abuses in Yemeni jails [Archives:2006/1010/Opinion]

December 25 2006

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Awful barbarism and fascism is taking place in Yemeni prisons. The harassment and rape of Anisah Al-Shuaibi, who was raped and beaten by jail officials, is just one in an endless series of human rights abuses in Yemeni prisons.

The Sana'a Criminal Investigations Office acted like a gang when they snatched Al-Shuaibi from her home without any legal warrant or orders from prosecution. She was put in jail while her two children were tossed into a men's jail for a time before being moved in with their mother.

Al-Shuaibi was accused of kidnapping and killing her ex-husband but what I can't understand is why jail the children? Of course, she denied the charges, claiming her ex-husband is alive and behind all of her troubles, including her imprisonment. Apparently, he's even influential enough to cause security personnel to harass her. What a pity.

However, my question doesn't regard Al-Shuaibi's charges or whether she's innocent or guilty in her dispute with her former husband. My concern is her rape and harassment by criminal investigation officers, who are supposed to protect those in jail, but instead become monsters driven by their fleshly lusts, neither observing human or moral values, let alone law and order, which they're supposed to respect and impose.

Of course, this isn't the first case wherein Yemeni soldiers or police – the supposed “guardians of the nation” – have exercised such immoral and shameful acts, as their record is filled with such human rights abuses and violations. Numerous instances regularly occur, but due to the social ostracism women experience if such incidents are reported, most cases remain hidden.

But this time, the hidden rotten apple has come to the surface, as Al-Shuaibi has the guts to expose her plight at the hands of security personnel, saying she has nothing to lose or worry about because her moral dignity already has been damaged by these savage soldiers.

The support extended to her by the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, known as HOOD, and other human rights activists really is impressive and demonstrates a growing legal awareness. However, such solidarity will be fruitful only when those in charge of the jail, including Rizk Al-Jawfi, chief officer of the Criminal Investigation Office, are held accountable.

Why doesn't the Interior Ministry commence interrogating Al-Jawfi and his security officials involved in Al-Shuaibi's rape? Does this mean the ministry approves of such disgusting acts by its affiliates or that even the big guys themselves are predators?

I suppose such an issue of human rights abuse not only should hold Al-Jawfi but even the interior minister or the prime minister accountable.

The citizens of this nation would like to see an open and transparent investigation into such rapes and human rights abuses by prison security personnel. Jails are where convicts serve their court-imposed prison terms, not prostitution centers, as some security officials seem to perceive.

Imprisonment is supposed to reform those with bad conduct and restore them back to life soundly. Unfortunately, Yemeni prisons only serve to produce frustrated and psychologically unsound individuals, a serious issue the government promptly should address.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.