Universal Declaration of Human Rights & Yemeni Law [Archives:1998/17/Focus]

April 27 1998

Dr. Salah Haddash, Ph. D law (France)
Managing Editor of Yemen Times
Assistant Professor of Human Rights,
Sanaa University
Article 6 of the amended Yemeni Constitution of 1994 stipulate that the state will act according to the UN charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…etc.
This declaration is a recommendation of the UN General Assembly issued on the 10 December, 1948. This means it has no legal obligation on the members states of the UN. The fact that the Yemeni Constitution adopted this declaration means that all its principles became part of the Yemeni law.
In this article we’ll show that this declaration cannot be fully implemented in Yemen for many reasons. We will tackle here the principles which cannot be implemented.
Because Islam is the official religion of the state and Islamic Sharia is the main source of all legislation, according to the Yemeni Constitution, the Islamic vision dominates all aspects of Yemeni life.
Regarding the equality between men and women, Islam establishes this relationship between men and women on the principle of “Qawama,” which means that man should provide for, take care of, and supervises the conduct of, women. This man can be the father, elder brother, or the husband. That is why the Yemeni law provides that a woman cannot travel outside the country without the permission of her male guardian, or he must accompany her on the trip. This is one of many examples which illustrate how Islamic views are implemented.
A secular view will consider such a situation as a form of non-equality between men and women. But in fact man is taking more responsibilities on his part, and women are more privileged. This situation can never be changed.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives the right to every individual to change his or her religion. According to the Yemeni law, changing one’s religion from Islam to another religion is considered as apostasy, which is a crime punishable by death according to the Yemeni penal law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits torture. The Yemeni Constitution adopts the same principle. However, the practice of torture as a method of interrogation is used by certain authorities in Yemen. This is one of the reasons for forming the Committee of 100 to Combat Torture on 16 April. There is no article in the Yemeni penal law specifying a punishment for the person who practice torture during interrogation. This situation should be changed in order to implement the Yemeni Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact Islam prohibits torture as a method of interrogation or as a punishment.
Fair Trial
The Universal Declaration gives the right to an accused individual to be judged in an impartial court of law. The Yemeni Constitution adopts the same principle. But, unfortunately, the court system is suffering from many shortcomings, especially corruption which has a negative effect on the impartiality of the court system.
The problem of corruption can be tackled in two ways: increasing judges wages and punishing the corrupted judges.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives the right to every individual to get married to the person he or she chooses regardless of religion. This situation is partially rejected by the Yemeni Personal Status Law because a Yemeni male has the right to marry a Christian or a Jewish woman. A Muslim Yemeni women, on the other hand, cannot marry a non-Muslim man. This is an Islamic religious principle.
Marriage in Yemen is a religious, not a civil, contract. It is necessary that the father or the elder brother (guardian) should sign the marriage contract on behalf of the female concerned with the husband. Cohabitation, accepted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is rejected by Islam and is considered a crime of adultery (Zina), punishable by the Yemeni penal law.
Abortion is prohibited by the Yemeni unless it is absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother, otherwise the doctor and mother are punishable by the Yemeni penal law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every individual should be protected from unemployment by a social security system. The Yemeni Constitution adopts the same principle. But Yemenis are suffering from high rates of unemployment without the benefit of a social security system, especially those who were not public employees. A huge number of Yemenis which have returned from the Gulf countries in 1991 are left without the protection of social security. There are many new university graduates who cannot find jobs. It is the duty of the Yemeni state to establish a kind of financial help for those who are not public employees.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that every working individual should have a fair wage that guarantees for that person and his or her family a decent living. Yemeni public employees do not get fair wages. An average university graduate gets about YR8,000 a month, which is not enough for providing the basics needs for living such as housing, food and clothing. There is also no good health service, in spite of the existence of public hospitals.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates compulsory primary school education. The Yemeni Constitution considers education as a right, not a duty. This means an individual has the freedom to choose between getting schooling or not to. The Yemeni law does not punish parents if they do not enroll their children into schools. This situation should be changed.
Human Rights Education
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that education should be directed towards human rights respects and awareness. School and university curricula in Yemen do not have human rights education. There is a big necessity to introduce such subjects as human rights into the Yemeni educational system in order to raise the people’s awareness of their rights and the rights of others.
Yemeni soceity is an Islamic society governed by the Islamic Sharia law. All international treaties cincerning human rights should accept the fact of “cultural relativism,” which means that every culture can adopt according to its conditions. Yemen declares its reserve concerning a few provisions in those treaties in order to protect its Arab and Islamic particularity.
Though the ratified international treaties by the Yemeni government have the priority in impelmentation in case of contradictions with the Yemeni law, Article 34 of the Civil Yemeni Law provided that ratified international treaties cannot be implemented if they contravene the Ilsmaic Sharia principles.