“Yemen can be the first Arab state to sign the Arab Human Rights Charter.” [Archives:1998/51/Law & Diplomacy]

December 21 1998

Dr. Mohammed Amin Al-Maidani is a researcher and the director of the Arabic Program in the International Human Rights Institute (Strasbourg, France), He has recently visited Yemen, upon an invitation by the Supreme National Human Rights Committee and the Human Rights Training and Information Center in Taiz, to participate in the first national human rights conference.
During his visit, Dr. Al-Maidani delivered lectures on international mechanisms and regional covenants for protecting human rights.
Interview by Dr. Salah Haddash
Q: Is this your first visit to Yemen?
A: No, in fact I was here five years ago, in 1993, to participate in a conference organized by the International Human Rights Institute, The Arab Human Rights Institute and Sanaa University. It was a regional conference in which many Arab human rights activists took part, to discuss international and regional issues in human rights.
Q: Why are such activities important?
A: Awareness of human rights issues is very important. Educating people about human rights is necessary for them to be able to protect their rights.
Our duty is to introduce international and regional human rights thoughts and philosophy. Through these conferences we can expand, strengthen and protect human rights in the countries we visit.
Q: What is the next step to consolidate human rights?
A: Awareness goes side by side with the formation of NGOs to protect human rights. This means a group of human rights activists working together to ensure actual implementation of the international and regional covenants signed by the country.
The main objective is to alert and educate people about the importance of protecting their rights, convey any violations of these rights to the officials, overcome these violations and get back to the right track to create a respectful situation.
Q: How can we promote conditions for successfully observing human rights?
A: There is notable lack of information regarding human rights documentation. There should be a special page in local newspapers about human rights. Organizing such conferences and advising the government to sign and ratify international covenants regarding human rights is essential.
I hope the Yemeni public will appeal to the Yemeni government to endorse the Arab Human Rights Charter which was promulgated in 1994. Unfortunately no Arab country has signed this declaration. If Yemen ratifies it, it will be the first Arab state to do so.
Yemen ratified the two human rights international covenants and the child rights covenant.
Q: How do you explain that Arab states have signed some of the international covenants but not the Arab Human Rights Charter?
A: This reflects the double-standard of Arab governments concerning human rights. In international forums, Arab representatives project a great interest in this issue. They make every effort to prove their good intentions and concern about human rights protection to the international powers. When Arab officials meet on their own in regional meetings, they express much criticism and dismay with human rights thoughts and tend to delay acceptance of human rights covenants.
Q: The Islamic human rights declaration was released by the Conference of Islamic Organization (CIO) in 1991 in Cairo. Why do we need an Islamic human rights?
A: It seems that the CIO was trying to show that Islam respects human rights and they are part of its teachings, which is a fact we don’t doubt. It was trying to draw the attention of the international community to this point.
As we all know, this declaration has only morally force, but is not binding to anyone. The CIO’s endorsement was a mere show of good intentions. It has helped many members of CIO to be on the safe side in international arenas, since they have signed none of the international human rights covenants.
I personally feel there is no need to have an Islamic covenant.We are talking about a universal value. It is enough to sign/ratify the international covenants and implement them fully.