State of the nation [Archives:2004/743/Opinion]

June 3 2004

By Mohammed N. Allaw
For the Yemen Times

It is 14 years since the foundation of the Republic of Yemen, following the unification of the country. When the state's officials are praising the accomplishments and achievements, they are compelled to dwell on and to brag of the issues of democracy and human rights as two issues that distinguish us. They are certain that they have provided Yemeni citizens with what they want through laws and freedoms including the freedoms of expression and opinion, elections and political participation.
The opposition sees it differently. The above talked-about privileges could have been fully achieved if the state had abided by texts of effective laws and the articles of the constitution. In reality, the citizen has not felt and touched what the government officials and official media are enchanted by.
Mohamed Naji Alaow, the lawyer and legal activist, talked to Yemen Times about what could have been achieved as follows:
“The Constitution of the Republic of Yemen, in Article No. 48, stipulates that the basic rights of the citizen include the right not to be arrested without a warrant issued by the Prosecution, as stated in the article related to criminal measures.
As far as the basic rights such as the freedom of expression, the right to political activities, establishing political, vocational and cultural organizations, in addition to the economic, civil, and social rights, the constitution confirms them through clear articles. But what has been achieved for the citizens is the right to political pluralism. This was established in practice by the foundation of existing political parties despite the immense difficulties still facing them. The ruling party remains to dominate the public sphere, the public funds, and the media, which makes the practice of political rights favor the ruling party. Subsequently, we can assume that only a simulation of democracy is present in Yemen. The legislative authority is practically ineffective, and the rights of the opposition parties are totally diminished with apparent imbalance between them and the ruling party.
Regarding the economic rights, Yemen is amid a genuine crisis where the unemployment rate has exceeded the level of danger and it has reached 55% although the reality may be higher. Society is dominated by poverty, the middle class does not exist any more, and the balance has tipped in favor of corruption and illegitimate wealth gaining powers, supported by acute, clear and known governmental corruption.
Concerning the respect of the freedoms of the people, the judicial corporation is almost absent, nonetheless, it is totally directed by the government and the president of the ruling party is the chief of the judicial authority, and the security and army corporations are under the control of the ruling party. All sorts of criminal, civil and political cases are conducted outside the frame of laws. The security apparatuses arrest and detain citizens for months and years without having to present their cases to courts. In general, there are no truly independently corporations due to the lack political balance. The freedom of expression is in its worst predicament considering the number of verdicts issued against journalists. The Ministry of Information selectively chooses its political adversaries from journalists and transfers them to the prosecution in retaliation for their stances on practices the violating the laws. In conclusion, the situation is disastrous and it could get worse if wise people don't react accordingly.