Sovereignty of Law Comes First [Archives:2000/38/Focus]

September 18 2000

Jamal Aamer,
Editorial Secretary of Al-Isbou weekly
Laws remain useless and nothing more than ink shed in the official Gazette unless there is a strong government that possesses an iron will to enforce them.
The crux of the problem in Yemen does not lie in the absence of new laws that cope with the new challenges and changes. On the contrary, legislations are there but they are ignored and sometimes violated for many reasons, chief among which are peoples ignorance of the importance of such laws as well as their ignorance of their civil rights. In addition, those laws are often broken by influential and high ranking people with strong tribal backgrounds. Those people take advantage of the governments carelessness in enforcing and protecting laws.
Within the current circumstances, Judges may endanger their lives by abiding by laws. Many judges have been beaten, kidnapped and even assaulted in many attempts to force them change proceedings of some cases. The latest incidents have been the kidnapping of a judge by a tribal group in order to force him to give a verdict in their favor and besieging the Commercial Court by another armed group for the same purpose. Such incidents make judges feel hesitant before giving verdicts, specially when seeing the absolute silence of the government towards such incidents.
Laws are sometimes violated by judges themselves. Those violations are the main reasons for the fear haunting many investors. I have had a chance to meet an Arab investor who told me that he was encouraged at the beginning by the facilities and articles of Investment Law. However, he said that he was shocked by the wide abyss between what was written and what was practiced in reality. He said that a short talk with a confident advocate made him change his mind about investing in Yemen. The advocate was asked about the possibility to get verdicts favoring some sides against others and he confidently proved that by recalling some occasions on which he was able to get verdict in favor of his clients, though illegal, whenever his clients were ready to offer generous amounts.
Such a story can not be applied to all judges but it happens and it leads investors to back out.
There are other issues which have played havoc with tourism industry such as highway robberies and kidnapping incidents. Though those incidents have become less to appear owing to spread of special courts to look into such matters, laws remain unimplemented in many cases. If kidnappers belong to a strong tribe, they are coaxed by millions and new cars in order to free the kidnapped. Kidnappers are left free to plan for other kidnappings.
It is because the influence of tribes that law of carrying arms was a failure due to fears of reactions. Such wrong calculations have weakened the governments sovereignty. For this reason, Yemen has been placed at the bottom list of countries benefiting from tourism despite the many tourist potentials it enjoys. Economic investment has also been damaged by the same reasons.
It is only the government that possesses the solution if it enforces laws disregarding peoples positions or rankings.