U.S. less critical of Yemen in report [Archives:2007/1056/Front Page]

June 4 2007

Moneer Al-Omari
SANA'A, June 3 ) In a recently released report to Congress, the U.S. State Department praised Yemen's efforts to enhance its administrative and political reforms in partnership with international organizations, hinting that adopting such reforms has helped Yemen fight corruption and upgrade the Yemeni judiciary's performance and fairness, as well as decrease assaults against journalists and opponents.

It pointed out that the Yemeni government has improved its scores by making many decisions aimed at curbing corruption, including removing judges who abuse their authority, ratifying a financial liability law and establishing an anti-corruption committee comprised of many civil society representatives.

However, the report criticized the detention and harassment of citizens, especially by the Ministry of Interior and Political and National Security affiliates, who the Yemeni government failed to hold accountable for inhumane acts and torture outside of the law. Further, there was continuous interference in legal action by influential officials. together with judicial corruption.

Regarding last September's presidential and local elections, observers judged them to be fair and impartial. President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his party, the General People's Congress, won a new seven-year term despite the fact that Yemen's Constitution dictates differently.

Yemeni opposition was unable to keep pace with the GPC, winning just 22 percent of local seats, which the report partly attributed to the ruling party's abuse of power and state resources. However, it assured that the U.S. will continue its support to enhance democracy among Yemen's political parties and work to improve elections administration.

The report went on to say that U.S. support for Yemen focused on reinforcing Yemeni government efforts to improve its human rights record and boost judicial and democratic reforms, noting that it adopted open dialogue with both the ruling party and opposition parties to boost democratic process in Yemen.

It added that U.S. efforts and support of Yemen have helped it fight corruption and increase women's representation in governmental posts, as well as increasing judiciary independence. Such support included courses like computer training and similar programs to integrate women into the Yemeni economy, as well as expanding their participation in the country's five largest political parties.

Moreover, the report assured that the U.S. has helped the development and progress of civil society organizations and worked to raise their awareness about various issues. It further conducted training courses for government officials and members of Parliament, particularly those affiliated with parliamentary committees, suggesting that such cooperation has resulted in a historic step for democracy in Yemen.

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Comparing with 2005, the report indicated a sharp decrease in 2006 in violations and assaults recorded against journalists who criticized the Yemeni government's performance. It also referred to the Press and Publications Law, with which journalists weren't happy.

Among reforms implemented in Yemen, the report highlighted several examples, such as President Saleh's ceding the presidency of the Supreme Judicial Council and naming and ordering a new government formation, as well as adopting a national strategy to fight corruption and expand the margins of freedom.

Observers believe the State Department's less critical attitude is attributed mainly to the close, joint cooperation between the U.S. and Yemen in matters related to the War on Terror and U.S. attempts to make Yemen extradite those Yemeni citizens the U.S. claims are involved in terrorist acts.