SNAPSHOTS FROM THE WORKING PAPERS, SPEECHES, AND DEBATES IN THE SEMINAR ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN YEMEN ORGANIZED BY YEMEN TIMES [Archives:1999/49/Reportage]
Welcome Speech of the Yemen Times Chief Editor
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf
Iwould like to welcome you in the name of the Yemen Times which holds this ceremony on the 51st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the last ceremony in the twentieth century, and the seminar titled, “Human Rights in Yemen, Present and Future”
The seminar is to discuss many topics related to human rights, among which are the political rights, freedom of press, penal investigation, the rights of women and children, development of awareness on human rights and the future prospects of human rights.
First of all I would like to offer my sincere thanks to His Excellency the President for patronizing this seminar and his continued support for our newspaper under all circumstances, the matter which confirms his true intentions and will to push human rights in Yemen towards broader horizons. In the name of Yemen Times I also thank all the dignitaries who contributed with working papers and all the attendants.
I presume that you all know that since the establishment of the newspaper, its founder the late Adulaziz Al-Saqqaf devoted himself assiduously for defending human rights and worked hard through his paper to combat injustice and corruption. In his capacity as chairman of the committee for rights and liberties at the Consultative Council he managed to have many aggrieved prisoners released. Now, after more than six months since his decease, I can proudly say that the Yemen Times has been able to stand up and has continued adopting the issues that he advocated, among which are human rights and encountering the circumstances that befell them. It has made it clear to all that the founder had given it a solid foundation to live through the most dificult circumstances. The paper is today witnessing a return to its familiar standard and is continuing to follow the course of its founder. This seminar is the best proof.
On this occasion the newspaper aims at calling attention to the importance of this event, which the paper has been celebrating every year. The paper has not changed, and will not, the pursuit of its founder. We are always guided by the spirit of Dr Al-Saqqaf, the courageous man who defended the rights of others before his own and who was among the most prominent personalities in the field of defending human rights. Due to the importance of the ceremony and the seminar the newspaper decided to transmit its proceedings on the Internet which has more than 140 million subscribers. It is of great honour for us that the Yemen Times newspaper be the first one in using transmission on the Internet of such an important event. As the paper is the most well-known on the Internet among all Yemeni newspapers, it has become more active in informing the world on what is going on in Yemen at all times. Yemen Times has now reached an advanced level in technology and expertise and it is now looked on as an example of press in Yemen and other countries particularly regarding neutrality, technique and expertise and therefore transmitting the seminar on the Internet will be very effective in informing the world on Yemen’s stance towards human rights. I suppose this is the first time in Yemen this modern technique is being used. All Yemen Times readers abroad would follow up this seminar on their screens and would receive the hoped for response which will give it a world character.
On conclusion of this welcoming speech I once again thank you all for attending and I especially thank His Excellency the President for his persevering endeavour to push forward the wheel of development in Yemen, particularly in the area of human rights. We at Yemen Times support his constructive steps in the hopes that he will continue this course. His attending this ceremony is a symbol of his interest in human rights and dissemination of justice and equity among people and founding just judicial system giving each his right without any injustice. This true stand is seen in the latest measures of pulling down private jails and reforming judiciary systems and other steps.
In the name of Yemen Times I promise you that the paper will remain a pioneer in the field of human rights and a forum seeking for modernizing and developing the state law and order.
Human Rights in Yemen
Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Kirbi – Member of the Human Rights Committee / CC
The paper of Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Kirbi concentrated on the fact that the ideas and concepts of human rights are not against our traditions and Islamic culture. Islam, as the Islamic intellectual Mohammed Omarah says, has exceeded in consecrating human rights (the level of rights) and put it in the frame of obligations. Eating, dressing, education, residence, security and freedom in thoughts and beliefs, etc. are obligations for and to him. Moreover, the righteousness of worldly existence matters come, in Al-Gazali’s opinion, like the righteousness of religion and life in this world represented by the right of a human being in a benevolent life that provides justice and life necessities.
The new globalization system which longs for economic integration in the mean time, might lead to political integration in the future. The cases of human rights might be built and imposed on different levels according to what is one’s opinion, relations and needs.
The democracy and human rights can not be well implemented and exercised by just putting them among the article of the constitution or protecting them by law and legislation because democracy and human rights are in the end a result of a civilization, education and the accumulation of contentment. The Yemeni constitution and the prison laws have wonderful provisions which have no blemishes, but the daily exercise, commitment and implementation of these laws is something else.
The cases of human rights which many international and local human rights organizations bring up only represent the tip of an iceberg. They are mostly prevailed upon by the political party or the interests of politicians for one reason or another while the other cases that citizens suffer from far from the concern of these organizations. As a result of this the say of human rights loses its value for the ordinary citizen and he considers getting involved in it as a part of involvement in politics and that these cases are nothing but politicians arguments’ and accusations that do not represent any humanitarian goal they want to achieve.
The process of improving conditions of human rights in Yemen is not the government’s responsibility only. It is also a national responsibility that everybody has to work for its improvement. Unfortunately, this would not be achieved if the government, parties and non-governmental organizations continue looking at each other suspiciously and accusingly. The achievements would be slower and limited if the responsibility was not common where a positive achievement is consolidated and a negative act is amended.
The constitution: represents the highest reference for the national body (the government). However, the constitution does not represent a sign for the democratic exercise. Britain, for example, is a country which has no constitution, yet the ruling system there is democratic. On the contrary, many Arab countries drafted developed constitutions and still they are as far as they could be from the democratic system.
Freedom of opinion: represented in the right of individuals and groups to freedom of opinion without any audit or control except in the limits of law. This right is reflected in the freedom of press, search and opposition for the rule.
Party (political) pluralism: is what reflects the right of citizens in translating the freedom of expression through institutions, associations and organizations which leads in the end to preventing any trial to monopolize the political activity and transforming the political burden to public case and the political exercise to a right to every citizen without any differentiation among parties which reflects the systems view to party pluralism as a decoration and not as a real and active exercise.
The Electoral system: this system includes local and parliamentary rule. It is a condition to guarantee the political participation through which the legislative constitutional authority is achieved being one of the props of establishing the new national government. Achieving this representation and this participation would not come unless the right atmosphere for the elections which comes from law and the constitution. This is embodied in running free, honest and transparent elections which truly reflect the ambitions of citizens.
The peaceful circulation of authority: is the normal result for democratic experience through giving the right to whoever earned the people’s trust to run the authority which is a right that people determine through honest elections.
These five factors represent a complete set for exercising democracy and human rights. These are not a subject of braining between parties or between the authority and people because if there were any flaw in or between them this would lead democracy and human rights to a dead end.
After this general presentation I will move to the challenges of the human rights movement through the next decade. Speaking about these challenges through a century is difficult and impossible in this changing world and in a condition when Yemen is witnessing large transformations in all life courses, and the enthusiasm of the political leadership about human rights, freedoms and the various decisions that were taken to improve the condition of human rights in Yemen is proof that were are walking in steady steps in the right direction.
Part of the difficulties that we face here in exercising human rights in Yemen comes as natural result of many factors represented by: 1) the absence of an Arabian model for the exercise of human right, 2) the positions of political opinion-making allowing intellectuals and the educated to influence their decisions, 3) the fact that we, in Yemen, lack democratic and human rights education. Creating an education for human rights and democracy is a subject that needs lots of work and a superior effort. Besides the results would not be seen by some generations who feel it is their right to feel the signs of these changes. They want quick treatments with the long ones to limit the wrong exercises and put an end to them.
Political treatments of human rights and democracy cases can not be separated from economic ones. They also do not accept the unplanned quick rash because it is a continuous process. In the beginning it represents an effort to reform and achieve justice and equality, but in the end they lead to a social revolution. The social revolution which is achieved through democracy and citizen’s freedom is the most successful in bringing economic, humanitarian and scientific developments contrary to the revolutionary coups which start with development and end up with retardation.
Mechanisms of developing awareness on Human Rights in Yemen
Dr. Fouad Abdul-Karim Al-Salahi – Sana’a University
Human Rights represent the basic principles which preserve the life and dignity of a human being and protect him from despotism and arbitrariness. Freedom is part of a human’s identity which he can not relinquish and if he lost it he would also lose his humanity.
The international declaration of Human Rights embodies the conscious recognition of the human society which advanced these rights and considered them basic rights for humans which are not open for disposition and they have their sanctity. Two international covenants are added to this declaration. The first is concerned with civil and political rights, and the second is concerned with economic, social and educational rights.
These rights are meant to be the common standard which all countries would use to measure their accomplishment in this field. Human rights draw upon an important principle which is people’s sovereignty. This principle is the one which separated between the government and ruling people by making them undertake their jobs for a set period of time within limited authorities which they may not cross. There is also another principle which is the distribution of authorities. This prevents authority monopolization and limiting them in one person or group.
We, in the Yemeni society – and the Arab in general – have suffered through history from the ruling of individuals, families and groups. So, the time has come for us to come out of these political forms to democracy which in its core is the respect of Human Rights. Democracy as a ruling system and lifestyle is based on the concepts of Human Rights in freedom, forbearance, disparity, the other opinion, the political and intellectual multitude and not monopolizing authority or fortune. Now, the international society through the financial and international organizations, etc. links financial aid with the improvement of Human Rights in a country.
The new terms of culture and politics which need to be spread in Yemen to create awareness of Human Rights are as follows: transparency, questioning, freedom, equality, the other opinion, partnership, pluralism, discussion, fairness and justice. The concept of Human Rights does not point out just to political rights, but includes economic, political, social, educational rights and the equality between sexes (males and females).
Our society has become in need of renewing the means of controlling relations between the government and the society. It is proved historically that we, Arabs, do not practice democracy and that we are not used to it. There are many psychological and cultural hindrances which have grown through history that prevent us from exercising democracy. The establishment of democracy and Human Rights requires awareness of individuals and groups inside the society. The government in Yemen will not become modern unless it makes modernization and development its goal and by using science, democracy and human rights as mechanisms to achieve these goals.
The official (government) mechanisms of developing the awareness of Human Rights are:
1. The government should approach the development of the society in all fields: economic, social, political and educational.
2. The government should approach seriously and resolutely to building the government of institutions and law which should organize the relations of individuals in the society and the society with the government.
3. The government should approach legal equality for all people.
4. The necessity of separating the judiciary from the executive authority and the respect of its decisions and verdicts.
5. Improving the level of political and legal awareness among the members of police, judiciary and security.
6. The government should approach activating the continuous controlling committees on the acts of officials in different official institutions.
7. The government should approach the modernization of educational curricula at different levels so that it would contain a place to teach Human Rights.
Women and Human Rights
Amat Al-Aleem Asosowa – Yemen’s Ambassador to Holland
There have been numerous changes and developments in plans, policies and legislation in Yemen since the early 1970s, particularly after the proclamation of the Yemeni Unity on May 22, 1990. These changes and transformations have always kept up with the political, economic, and social developments and updates. The laws of the Republic of Yemen, be they civil, criminal, administrative, personal or otherwise, are derived from Islamic Shariah. They do not differentiate between men and women except in some issues that are provided for by Allah the Almighty Shariah like inheritance, witness, marriage and divorce. There were not any amendments in the constitution and laws, concerning women, mentioned in the former Beijing report. However, there are some laws which the House of Representatives started to debate for amendments.
Yemen participated in several international women’s conferences, and complied with a lot of international legal documents with some reservation.
It had a useful and effective presence at UN conferences for women in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and finally in the Beijing Fourth International Conference (1995). Here are some of the most important agreements that Yemen has complied with or ratified:
a) Universal Human Rights Declaration: it was announced on December, 1948. All members of the international family therein are firmly equal in rights and having humanitarian dignity forming the basis of liberty and justice and peace all over the world. It confirmed that ignorance of Human Rights has excited the humanitarian conscience.
b) Abolishing All Forms of Discrimination against Women Agreement: It was announced by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1997. It calls for equal rights between men and women in all fields: political, economic, social, cultural and civil rights. It also calls for enacting national legislation banning any discrimination against women and recommends taking special measures for speeding up equality processes between men and women.
There are also some difficulties and obstacles which women face. Here are some:
– The illiteracy rate is extremely high, especially in the countryside.
– Absence of awareness of rights and duties provided for by laws.
– Administrative complications obstructing implementation of laws.
– Not sharing women with formulating laws and decision-making at all levels.
– Not applying laws and punishing lawbreakers like those who never comply with marriage age, don’t distribute inheritance, force girls to get married, have many wives without possibilities, etc.
– Domination of negative traditions and customs over women’s lives.
– Looking at women as only housewives and not believing in their role in building society.
– Women never demand their legislative rights like inheritance or divorce.
– Women do not properly exercise some of their legal rights.
– Absence of women in Consultative Council.
– Insufficiency of media programs that deal with legal and legislative issues.
Government and non-governmental organizations have taken measures to overcome these difficulties and obstacles:
1- Qualifying women cadres in the legal and legislative field.
2- Working for creating an authority responsible for monitoring application of laws and legislation relevant to women.
3- Specifying articles that obstruct women and amending them.
4- Putting the National Strategy for populations (1999-2000) into effect as well as the plan of action on population.
5- Putting a concentrated media plan for discussing legal, political, development and family issues of women.
6- Adding subjects to school curricula about women and their role within the family and the society.
7- Holding several symposia, seminars and workshops at governmental and non-governmental levels in the field of law and legislation and their impact on women.
8- Publishing booklets and bulletins related to international legal documents regarding women.
9- The Consultative Council should call on women to attend its debates and present some studies about women.
10- Increasing the number of women in the House of Representatives.
Human Rights in Yemen: The Word and the Reality
Dr. Mohammed Awd Ba-Obaid – Psychology Department/ Sana’a University
Judicial apparatuses play a very significant role in combating crime and preventing it before it is committed. By this they are trying to protect communities against crime. They take deterrent measures against criminal groups aiming at undermining social security and peace.Thus any individual accused of being responsible for a crime undergoes a dangerous and difficult situation. And since the individual is weak in the face of authority so the question of criminals’ human rights is based on a very sensitive balance between the rights of the individual and the society’s right to defend itself. This situation evokes much controversy dealing with the balance of power and the values and interests. The question coming to surface in this respect is to what extent the society could move in defense of itself without impinging upon human rights.
The constitution in Yemen has guaranteed the basic human rights and committed itself not to allow the lower laws to tamper with these rights. But in practice there is a big gap between the constitutional and legal texts and practical application.
– Dealing with human rights at the stage of indictment:
The Yemeni constitution and other laws have ensured legal guarantees to protect the defendant at the various phases of criminal measures against any breaches he may be encountered with. Article 6 of the constitution indicated that the state acts according to the UN charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and provisions of the international law. It has also defined certain punishments against those violating provisions of the constitution and the law pertaining to restricting freedom of the citizen as well as torture. It has also prohibited execution of legal penalties by illegal means.
It is worthwhile to mention here that the constitutional and legal guarantees secured for the defendant during the stages of accusation and prosecution are not applied at the required level. So the gap between texts of the laws and practice is still in need of additional efforts in favor of realizing the legal guarantees on protecting the defendant.
It is evident that the Yemeni laws concerning observance of human rights do not differ much from the international rules on treating the defendants and the convicted. They ensure the defendant and the prisoner human rights and protect them against any violations they might come under at the hands of the concerned authorities. But in practice, these legal guarantees are still not implemented properly. The defendant or the prisoner is still suffering from some breaches of his legally secured rights. This could be attributed to a number of reasons. They are related to weakness of the role of prosecution in the interrogation process and overseeing them, or weakness of religious and ethical restraint. They could also be ascribed to technical weakness of investigating bodies and the standard of administrative and organizational performance of penal justice apparatus, misdistribution of the cadre,the citizen’s non-cooperation with policemen, weakness of qualification and training, in addition to weakness of monitoring and inspection.
In order to ensure application of legal guarantees to protect human rights during the stages of accusation and penal execution we propose the following recommendations;
– Drawing up a national strategy for penal justice aimed at activating constitutional and legal guarantees to protect human rights during the various phases of criminal procedures.
-Developing training and qualification programs containing human rights concentrating on skills development of those working in the field of penal justice in using modern scientific means in implementation of their task.
-Developing criminal offices with regard to technical supplies and cadre and securing their being neutral, and that is through annexing them to the public prosecution and extend their action to all governorates of the republic.
-Paying due attention to penal and legal scientific research and founding a national centre for criminal and social research.
-Rendering care for programs on legal awareness for citizens aimed at creating general awareness of their constitutional and legal rights.
-Encouraging initiatives of non-governmental organizations in helping the government in improving conditions of prisons and prisoners.
FREEDOM OF PRESS
Mahboub Ali – President of Yemeni Journalists Syndicate
On the 10th of this month, 51 years will have elapsed since the release of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948.
Although a long period has elapsed, the case of human rights was not a matter of dispute, and countries, corporations and different authorities did not pay much attention to it except in the last two decades. These decades have witnessed bloody combats, sanguinary universal wars, liberal revolutions, divisions, political agglomerations, and fast technological & scientific developments especially in the fields of communication and information.
During the years of the cold war the case of human rights was used as a weapon against opponents. It was used as an instrument in the relations between countries and specialized political forces under the presence of capitalist & socialist camps. In the middle of this period, regional treaties of human rights were released, some of which are: the European Treaty for Human Rights in 1950, the American Treaty for Human Rights in1969, the African Covenant for Human Rights and the Arab Covenant for Human Rights in 1994.
Those regional and international covenants rendered the human rights a distinctive care in the right to the freedom of opinion and expression. Article No (19) of the universal declaration for human rights stated, “Every person has the right to the freedom of expression… this includes the freedom of adopting opinions without interference or obtaining, receiving or announcing news or thoughts through any means without being restricted by geographical barriers.”
Here lies the importance of press, being the important prop of the freedom of opinion and expression and the tool that enables citizens to receive, disseminate and circulate information among different societal classes. Freedom of opinion and expression is not a set which differs from other freedoms and human rights. Freedom of press means democracy, for there is no democracy without it.
Freedom of press forms the most important prop of the democratic opinion which enables society and its political powers to express their opinions and beliefs.
Theories on the concept of freedom of press vary among international information systems. This can be summarized in four theories: authority, liberalism, socialism and social responsibility and development theory which started to spread among intellectuals in the third world facing the theories which western thought created. Despite this disparity, the technological revolution in the fields of communication and information exchange has created new conditions for all countries and people. So, if we are leaving the second millennium which has witnessed the decadence of direct military domination and economic and colonial control, we will face, in the third millennium under globalization, a new war which is different from all wars our world has witnessed in the second millennium. It is an information war and a vigorous competition to dominate this new fortune of the new active weapon.
Information specialists in Western countries stated that Europe would be ready, during the next five years, to operate 3500 space channels. It will allocate huge amounts of money spent on satellites, knowing that the European Committee estimated that the number of European satellites by the beginning of the 1990s would be 90. This step will combine several systems of information networks with satellites in one single network called (Network of Networks). This network will increase the flow of news and information through the globe. No country will be able to close its borders or protect its sky from this information flood which will take over every house and every brain. Therefore, it would be impossible in my opinion to impose cuffs on press and national media especially in countries which enjoy a democracy.
Would we just stand still in our positions? Or would we commence in preparing for the development battle and in building the new weapon; the international weapon which surpasses all weapons that humanity has created over the preceding ages? It is the weapon of media and press…
I modestly and humbly say that Yemen, in the opinion of international observers, is one of the Arab countries, in particular, and the third world countries, in general, which was not forced to adopt the democratic scheme, reform the political system, accept political pluralism and render freedom to press in the field of human rights. It has forced all these on its own through its unity which was achieved by the will of its people.
In my opinion, this distinctive privilege, puts Yemen in a position that is more capable of harmonizing with the broad development, modernization and reformation process inputs and variables.
Whatever the size of achievements and current political, economic, social and educational development processes was, they still would stay out of the light in the absence of the Yemeni media and press. This would not become real, unless we put an information strategy to face the upcoming stage under globalization by launching individual initiatives in drafting, forming, disseminating and circulating the news independently; and through establishing an unusual, modern and developed press-project that can absorb new transformations.
What is left in this regard is the importance of the factor embodied by journalists who lack jobs, living and health care to a large degree in comparison to their counterparts in other Arab countries, in particular, and the third world countries, in general.
The Yemeni Journalist Union which represents one of the props of civil society institutions in the country that assure the importance of the role of the Yemeni press and media acts as a stand to spread the education of human rights. It shall spread the case of human rights far from using it as a tool for political obtrusions or favored treatments between different political forces. The Union has to take this case as a crucial one which can not be divided, it shall be elevated over all considerations, political relations or party affiliations.
Dr. Adel Mojahed Al-Shargabi – Sana’a University
Though international interest in human rights had begun in the 1940s, the large-scale spread of human rights concepts and their development to one of the determinants of international relations, especially between big powers and various countries began only in the early 1990s. That development coincided with the beginning of formation of the so-called ‘new world order’ via various mechanisms of globalization. The definition of globalization can be summarized as the free movement of capital, technology, individuals, ideology and other elements of culture, materially and non-materially. This would entail creation of a unified world culture, which, if looked at from the angle of human rights, could be described as seeking to internationally unifying human rights criteria.
Theoretically speaking, Yemen has realized an encouraging progress in the area of human rights and has become a party to most of the major international treaties on human rights. It has also enlisted in its legislation a number of internationally-recognized human rights criteria. Reports of Amnesty International show that violations of human rights have considerably receded during the period beginning from the reunification of Yemen in May, 1990. This can be attributed to the democratic orientation of the united state and its recognition of political pluralism and human rights, although Amnesty International has returned to affirm cases of human rights violation in Yemen since the end of the summer of 1994.
It is evident that the state is not the only party concerned with guaranteeing human rights and protection of human rights, the role of non-governmental organizations is no less important than the state’s role in this respect.
Here we propose that the state and non-governmental organizations’ tasks are;
-The state should take serious steps in modernizing the bureaucratic apparatus and the security, military and judicial institutions.
– The state should take serious steps regarding the groups of political and social pressure, including tribal groups whose violations of human rights succeeded in breaching human rights of resident foreigners and tourists.
-The state should modernize all state-owned mass media to keep pace with the democratic policy of the state and its role in disseminating the culture on human rights.
-As for the political parties they must stabilize democracy inside their organizational structure and the culture of human rights among their members in particular and the society in general.
At last there must be an indication to the integration of the efforts of the state and non-governmental organizations. And the political establishments, including the ruling and opposition political parties should undertake their common responsibility in building the state of institutions.
Dr. Khadijah Al-Haisami
The international declaration of Human rights on Dec. 10, 1948 came as an educational and enlightening charter. Although it was not binding, its declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations added to it a certain kind of political and cultural impact worldwide. Respecting these rights and recognizing them was not objected to by countries concerned about organizing their internal affairs. However, they refrained from going beyond, to specify the responsibility of the international community to protect these rights by forming an international authority or organization to settle down disputes between governments and citizens.
In fact, there are two different viewpoints in this regard:
1- Of the governments who consider protecting human rights to be their own affairs and consider any external interference a violation of the constitution of the United Nations’ regulations.
2- Protection of human rights should by the responsibility of the advanced international community.
In third world countries, citizens can not generally fall back on the constitutional organizations or authorities if their rights are violated, while the tribe he belongs to may protect his rights.
Violations of human rights in the third world might be due to social, religious and ethnic reasons.
Although the situation of human rights in third world countries and the Arab world does not defer from each other very much, the European and American parties concentrate on the Islamic countries in general and the Arab world in particular in an attempt to tarnish the image of Islam.
Since the international declaration of human rights, the agreement or disagreement of the principles of this declaration with the beliefs of the third world countries in general and the Arab countries in particular has been controversial among intellectuals. This, in fact, is due to some factors, one of which is the belief that human rights, especially the political, are no more than decorated slogans to find excuses to interfere in the internal affairs of countries.
Confronting those who exploit the political rights for political aims should not be by rejecting these rights. However, it should be by disclosing those who exploit them at the expense of human rights.
The declaration of human rights encourages some of the regional gatherings to issue charters concerning human rights that agree with their own beliefs and cultures. For example, the African Charter (1981), The Arab Charter (1983), etc. The controversy and differences are due to three main factors which are:
Religion, equality and democracy.
I will try to focus on democracy due to its direct connection with human political rights. Democracy in the declaration of human rights is based on three basic elements: freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of participation in peaceful meetings and societies.
In this regard, I would like to point out two things:
1- Saudi Arabia and Oman do not have written constitutions in the known sense. They depend solely on Islamic legislation.
2- The other Arab countries expressed in their constitutions their respect for the international declaration of rights and added specific mechanization to organize such rights.
Habib Hammam: UNICEF Representative,
The declaration of human rights, which was formulated with the participation of Arab countries, confirms the role of Governments in protecting and promoting the individual in order to liberate human energies and give an opportunity to each and every individual to give and excel to the best of their ability- that is empowerment in large numbers-and in that, progress and prosperity for the nation.
Human rights cannot be dittoed, but they are nurtured in an atmosphere that allows them to grow. And we look forward to a generation that grows believing that the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are natural occurrences that guarantee to the Yemeni child rights which are not less than the rights of children in other parts of the world. there is a connection between children’s rights and future prosperity. The Convention of the Rights of the child provides for removing obstacles and opening opportunities for individual growth and prosperity. As we gather to cooperate among ourselves on human rights, those that guarantee a prosperous future, children’s rights make a good foundation.
Dr. Faris Al-Saqqaf, chairman of the Future Studies Center
I think that human rights in Yemen are in a dilemma because people are not fully aware of the importance of this issue. The problem in our society is that oppression is practiced at home, work, parties, organizations, etc. Therefore, there must be a strong commitment to raise the people’s awareness of this issue. I think that we are still far from the right beginning. Such issues should proceed by raising the people’s awareness and a strong commitment to protect these rights. The recent event of closing down the Women’s Center at Sana’a University is illegal. Even if people do not agree with its policy, it shouldn’t have been closed in that way. Closing it down is a violation of human rights. So this is one example and, of course, there are many others on violation of human rights.
It is right that the government shows its respect for human rights, but there must be practical steps to protect them.
Mohammed Al-Maqaleh, journalist
Unlike many countries of the third world, Yemen has many charters and laws concerning human rights. It is always among the first countries to sign international agreements, charters, etc. concerning human rights. Yemeni officials always talk about democracy and human rights excessively. However, Yemen is among the countries that violates human rights. Any official can sign an agreement forbidding torture, however, he himself can torture people with nothing to stop him. I can cite many examples here, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in this symposium, talks about women’s rights. However, it was he who gave orders to close down the Women’s Studies Center and formed a committee that contains many male-chauvinists.
Days and nights, the Ministry of Information talks about democracy, but we do not happen to hear anything regarding the opposite opinions in its media.
Many people were killed in Aden and Hodeidah as a result of torture.
One can not talk about sheikhs and their private jails where they violate human rights because one is afraid of them. However, they are not strong because of being sheikhs but because of the government itself which gives them the chance to be strong.
To conclude, Yemen has many good laws, but there are also heinous practices against human rights that do not agree with the present time.
Abdul Aziz Sultan, chief editor of Al-Wahdawi newspaper
Human rights is a very important issue and the whole world is concerned about what is going on in Yemen in this regard. In fact, I can say that, this issue, as well as democracy is still in its cradle. Many innocent people are tortured by the Penal Investigation Office and many journalists become subject to all kinds of oppression because of some articles they write or of their own stances.
In Yemen, we see peddlers on pavements in cold as well as hot seasons. Beggars are on the rise. Unfortunately the government has not done anything to solve these problems.
In fact, human rights in Yemen are in dire need to be reconsidered, especially as we approach the third millennium.
Hamoud Al-Bokheiti, vice-chairman of the Society for Consumer Protection
Protection of human rights must be the responsibility of the government. Unfortunately, people concerned with this issue are still away from grasping it fully. Therefore, we tried in this symposium to focus on raising awareness of people and organizations concerned with this issue.
What I have noticed at the symposium is that it was mostly academic. Researchers depended on researches and studies and were away from what is going on in reality. In addition, it was not comprehensive because it did not talk about all types of consumers in society. How do you want people to think properly if their food and environment are not good?
Rajaa Al-Masaabi, masters student at the Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Center
The Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Center is the first of its kind in the Arab world that gives academic certificates: diploma, masters and doctorate. The center hosted a seminar on Women’s Studies on Dec.12-14. The seminar was sponsored by the President who gave us 42 airway tickets. We borrowed the translation and listening equipment from the presidential office. About 26 foreign countries attended the seminar which was also online on the Internet. After the seminar accusations started showering on us from mosques. We were accused of adultery and practicing polygamy. The center was also accused of displaying immoral photos. In fact , we don’t know who is responsible for all this. When the head of the committee appointed by parliament came to the center he did not even greet us. “You’ve been honored by my visit,” he said as if there was something wrong with the place. Now after closing the center, the future of more than 120 students has become uncertain. Worse is that closing it means that we are really ‘bitches.’ How do they close it for having a subject entitled ‘Gender,’ while there is an administration bearing the same name in the Ministry of Labor. I wonder why it has been closed. There is a similar center in Sudan and Palestine. Why haven’t they been closed there, too? Aren’t they Muslims?