Yemen Ready for Dialogue about Human Rights after 2011 Protests Demand Government that Respects ‘Freedom, Equality and Dignity’, Human Rights Committee Told

14 March 2012
HR/CT/741

Yemen Ready for Dialogue about Human Rights after 2011 Protests Demand Government that Respects ‘Freedom, Equality and Dignity’, Human Rights Committee Told

14 March 2012
General Assembly
HR/CT/741
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Human Rights Committee

104th Session

2868th Meeting* (PM)

Yemen Ready for Dialogue about Human Rights after 2011 Protests Demand Government

that Respects ‘Freedom, Equality and Dignity’, Human Rights Committee Told

 

Delegation Says President Resigned in February, New Constitution Being Drafted;

Experts Raise Questions on Broad Amnesty Law, Use of Force against Demonstrators

Yemen was ready to start a transparent, positive dialogue about improving its human rights record, after mass uprisings against unemployment, corruption and deteriorating economic prospects had pushed President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign after 33 years of power, the Human Rights Committee was told today, as it considered the country’s fifth periodic report.

“The situation in Yemen in 2011 was linked to the Arab Spring events,” said Hooriya Mashhoyr Ahmed, Minister of Human Rights, presenting the report, which addresses compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  She clarified that it would be replaced by a new version that would account for recent events.  Indeed, young people were demanding change — a civil State that would preserve and protect their rights.  “They were looking forward to a State that respected their freedom, equality and dignity in a democratic environment”, she said.  While the protests had started peacefully, they had been marred by armed confrontations and serious human rights infringements.

To avert a looming civil war, an initiative brokered with the Gulf Cooperation Council allowed for a peaceful transition of power and won international backing, she said.  Several international decisions had ushered in that settlement, including the visit last July by the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the adoption of Security Council resolution 2014 (2011), which expressed concern at the violence used against demonstrators, the serious absence of security and deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situations.  As part of the agreement, President Saleh resigned in February, a new President was chosen to head the National Consensus Government, a constitution is being drafted and presidential and parliamentary elections are envisioned for 2014.

Moreover, Yemeni women had stunned the world with their participation in the “Yemeni Spring”, she said, adding that it was no coincidence that [activist] Tawakel Karman had received the 2011 Nobel peace prize.  Her fame was global recognition of all Yemeni women in a society that had seen violence and armed conflict.  Thanks to their struggle, new laws to guarantee women’s public and private rights were being created.

When the floor was opened for comments, the Yemeni delegation faced a raft of questions about allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, ill treatment by law enforcement, and use of force by pro-Government militias.  One expert asked whether Yemen intended to prosecute past crimes.  A broad amnesty law covered Government officials for the past three decades.  How was such impunity in line with Yemen’s obligations under the Covenant?

Taking that point further, another expert wondered how to kick off a democratic tradition in a country that had so gravely suffered.  “If we do not have the rule of law and a justice system that works efficiently, we cannot do anything with human rights,” she said, asking about the country’s priorities.

Responding to those concerns, Ms. Ahmed said that the last year had seen many violations.  The military was not always aware of the law.  That must be addressed through training and reform of military institutions.  Such issues were covered by the draft transitional justice law, which stated that military commanders suspected of human rights violations should be purged.  The draft law was being discussed with civil society, justice officials, academics and others.  It would be submitted to the Council of Ministers, before being sent to Parliament.

She added that some members of the military and police had been detained for their use of excessive force.  Their cases were being investigated by the military justice system.

Turning to the amnesty law, she said it had been among the best — but most difficult — options for the Government.  Immunity had been given at the same time that the Government was engaging in a frank dialogue with concerned parties.  The aim was to ensure that incidents would be kept in the “national memory” while compensations were to be paid to victims, as part of a programme for the future. 

An independent human rights body, she hoped, would be created within a year.  Consultations had been held with the European Union to that end.  Her Ministry also had dispatched technical teams to consult with other Government agencies and non-governmental organizations to draft basic law for its creation.

The Human Rights Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 15 March, to continue its consideration of Yemen’s fifth periodic report, and begin consideration of the initial report of Turkmenistan.

Background

The Human Rights Committee, the 18-member expert body that monitors global implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, continued its 104th session today as it considered the fifth periodic report of Yemen (document CCPR/C/YEM/5).

Issued on 14 December 2009, the report describes the status of the Covenant’s implementation and actions taken in response to the Committee’s recommendations.  It offers examples of State efforts to ensure the Covenant was applied and that training and awareness programmes were implemented.  “Democracy and human rights are becoming part of the way of life in Yemen,” the report states, citing the development of legislative and institutional safeguards essential for civil society to participate in political, economic, social and cultural life.

Democracy and human rights were part of an integrated system, the report notes, as seen in the State’s early ratification of some 56 international treaties and the 2003 creation of the Ministry of Human Rights.  On the subject of the judiciary, the report states that all trials were conducted according to constitutional and legal procedures, as well as the principle that “the accused is innocent until proved guilty” on the basis of compelling evidence.  Under the Constitution, arbitrary detention and torture of suspects or detainees on remand were offences that were not “time-barred” from prosecution.  Perpetrators must be given just punishments.  The death penalty was imposed for only the most serious crimes.

The criminal code set the age of full criminal responsibility at 18 years. It was illegal to incarcerate a minor in a penal institution.  The judicial reform strategy provided for the transfer of the functions of the President of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary from the Office of the President of the Republic to the President of the Supreme Court.  Laws were being amended to strengthen judicial independence.

Regarding discrimination and violence against women, the report notes changes to domestic legislation that impacted women’s ability to transfer their nationality to their children, serve in the police force, retire, and work in diplomacy abroad.  The House of Representative had set the marrying age at 17 years, rendering the marriage of underage girls a legally punishable offence.

The report then provides an article-by-article description of domestic legislative and institutional measures.

Presentation of Yemen’s Report

HOORIYA MASHHOYR AHMED, Minister of Human Rights of Yemen, said the report before the Committee was not the most recent report. “There are some inaccuracies”, she said, and she, therefore, wished to send the later and final version.  Outlining a vision for civil and political rights, she said Yemen hoped to overcome its current difficulties with the help of stakeholders, including the sponsors of the settlement reached with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Security Council.

“The situation in Yemen in 2011 was linked to the Arab Spring events,” she said, during which time there were peaceful demonstrations.  Young people were demanding change — a civil State that would preserve and protect their rights, freedoms and justice.  Though the beginning of those demonstrations was peaceful, there were also armed confrontations and serious human rights infringements.  “There indeed were a lot of victims,” she said, adding that there were 2,000 martyrs, among whom were 143 children, and 22,000 injured people.  In addition, infrastructure had been destroyed and basic services, such as electricity, had deteriorated.  The worsening economic situation had resulted in the closing of 800 economic establishments and people lost their jobs.

As a result of the “looming civil war”, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries had proposed an initiative for a peaceful transition that avoided violence, which had received international consensus.  Last July, the High Commissioner on Human Rights had visited Yemen.  The Human Rights Council (HRC) had issued a report, and the Security Council had issued resolution 2014 (2011), concerned at the violence used against peaceful demonstrators, the serious absence of security, and deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situations. Those international decisions had had a positive impact.  They had led to the political settlement between the ruling party and its partners, and signing of the Executive Mechanism on 23 November 2011.

Discussing key issues that were agreed, she cited the establishment of a Government based on national consensus, and the Executive Mechanism within the Gulf Cooperation Countries initiative.  Agreed goals concerned security, stability and the re-composition of the army; the holding of a national dialogue conference; the creation of a new constitution; reform of the political system; reform of the electoral system, including elections in the House of Representative and Parliament, in line with the new constitution; and efforts to improve the economic and social situation.  Other goals included the creation of a committee on military issues, she added.

Turning to the questions received from the Committee during the preparation of Yemen’s fifth report, she said:  “We are going to give you information on the recent human rights situation,” which would include legislative, judicial, and administrative measures taken on issues of:  southern Yemen; the establishment of an independent human rights commission; human rights infringements, such as killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture; oppression of journalists; and obstacles that had hindered the implementation of the Covenant.  Such issues were related to political and economic issues, as well as security and stability.

Indeed, young men and women had participated in demonstrations because of difficulties in obtaining human rights.  “They were looking forward to a civil State that respected their freedom, equality and dignity in a democratic environment with the rule of law and the full respect of human rights”, she said.

Turning to the issue of southern Yemen, she recalled that the dialogue regarding the south must be based on an equitable national solution that would preserve the integrity of Yemeni territories.  The new Government of National Consensus had developed a programme to carry out public policy goals.  It had been endorsed by the Ministry of Human Rights and would work to implement the rule of law.  In that context, she said there was a political settlement that had given the former President immunity from accountability.  But, the law could allow for other possibilities of justice in the transitional period, such as an investigation into all forms of human rights infringements and remedies for victims.  Other measures would guarantee that such infringements would not recur.

She went on to say that a draft law included measures that called for a comprehensive institutional reform of all agencies involved in human rights violations.  Discussion with political, legal and social “components”, as well as victims, was ongoing.  Regarding legislative and institutional reforms, she said they were aimed at the political system, as well as civil and political rights.  In carrying out reforms, it was important to remember that the national dialogue conference must consider the drafting of a constitution and formation of a drafting commission.  A proposal on the state structure would be submitted to a national referendum.  Other reforms must target the civil service, justice, and administration and guarantee the independence of the media.  Those were measures for the future.

As for steps already being taken, she said a conference on criminal justice had been held in Saana on 27 and 28 June 2010, organized by the Ministry of Human Rights, and with the wide participation of non-governmental organizations.  Participants had discussed legal reform requirements; a code of conduct for law enforcement officials; prison functioning; alignment of criminal justice laws with relevant covenants; and raising awareness of those laws.  The conference had submitted a paper to lawmakers and stakeholders, including donors, with a view to launching a reform programme.

On the creation of an independent human rights commission, she said it was part of the Ministry’s plans for the future.  Steps had been taken with civil society organizations and international entities, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which itself had decided to open an office in Yemen to help the country build capacities.  “We are looking forward to having all United Nations agencies and donor countries support Yemen in overcoming its crisis and reviving its economy,” she said.

Regarding arrests, she said the Council of Ministers had issued a resolution on the release of people being illegally held.  Further, the Military Affairs Committee had ordered all security units in Saana and the provinces to release those who had been arrested during recent events.  It would hold accountable any entity violating those instructions.  Also, a resolution had been issued to form a ministerial committee that would, in turn, create an independent investigation committee to address claims of human rights violations.  On compensation for victims, she said a resolution had been issued to rebuild public buildings damaged in the crisis.  There would be mechanism for compensation as soon as investigations were complete and new laws for reconciliation had been made.

Turning to the topic of women, she said a national commission for women had prepared a strategy for the 2006-2015 period, which focused on six goals, including promotion of women’s education and health; policies to combat violence; efforts to prevent discrimination; and the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  “Yemeni women have stunned the world with their participation in the Yemeni spring,” she said, adding that it was not a coincidence that Tawakel Karman had received the Nobel peace prize.  That was recognition by the world of Yemeni women in a society that had seen violence and armed conflict.  By virtue of their struggle, new laws to guarantee women’s public and private rights were being created.  Indeed, the transfer of power included the need to involve women in all measures.  

There were many grave challenges ahead to implementing the Covenant, she said, touching on the following issues in that context:  poverty; provision of justice to the entire population; inadequate human rights awareness programmes for judicial officers and correctional facilities employees; insufficient resources for prisons; lack of system for gathering data from all Government agencies; and weakness of the national mechanism for human rights protection.

She also cited weak regulatory entities for the security and military establishments; a lack of human rights entities; the spread of weapons; the absence of the rule of law; the lack of trust in the judicial system; corruption; and increased threats from Al-Qaeda.

With that, she called on the Committee to build a true partnership with Yemen to promote human rights.  Yemen was ready to start a transparent, positive dialogue, she said.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

LAZHARI BOUZID, expert from Algeria, said given that Yemen’s delegate said 80 per cent of the report submitted to the Committee was accurate and the rest must be amended, he asked for clarification whether she had referred to a 2009 periodic report, or the list of replies submitted to the Committee.  He then noted with approval the national committee’s commitment to human rights and making relevant priorities, noting that those commitments were a result of the Yemeni 2011 uprising, which targeted corruption and the respect of people’s rights.

Focusing on the Covenant, he said the Government had been asked to explain political and legal measures on the rights for self-determination regarding the situation in the South.  In the fifth periodic report, there was an explanation that the Government’s intention was to discuss local administrative issues.  However, now the answer given was that the question of the South would be discussed in the national reconciliation conference to achieve a solution that would preserve Yemen.  He asked the speaker to clarify whether a federation was the vision, or an elimination of the idea of separation.

Turning to the question of equality, he said the report showed that protestors were detained and subjected to torture and inhumane treatment, including the names of southern leaders still incarcerated.  He asked the speaker for comments.

Despite a presidential decree in 2008 about the reintegration of military personnel who retired after the 1997 events concerning the South, he noted that the implementation had affected only 66 per cent of the total number of personnel.  He asked if the Government wanted to, indeed, reintegrate those forces.

The current Constitution had bound Yemen to implement international human rights laws, but there were no mechanisms to do that in the document.  He asked what measures the Government would adopt to implement the Covenant.  Because of recent events, including a fight against terrorism and tribal struggles, he asked the Government to shed light on the current security situation.  Also, noting that the Government stated today it would take the Paris Principles in mind to create relevant human rights organizations, he asked for details on how that would happen.

Considering the current security challenges, he said Yemen had a right to maintain stability; however, human rights must be protected.  Reports submitted by non-governmental organizations had provided many examples of the lack of respect by Yemeni forces, including the names of victims of extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances.  He asked if there was a comprehensive reform being carried out.

Regarding reports on grave violations of human rights in two regions, he asked if the national accord Government could carry out the recommendations of the Committee in examining those reports.  Regarding the illegally held detainees and shutting detention centres, he asked if the Government was in the position of total control over its security forces.

YUJI IWASAWA, expert from Japan and Committee Vice-Chairperson, raised a number of issues.  On discrimination in all fields, he said the report provided no new information on processes to bring Yemen in line with international human rights treaties.  He asked if progress had been made and if there were any court decisions on that subject.

Turning to the status of women and noting that the speaker had said the new constitution would enhance the status of women, he asked how that would happen.  The Government’s report had shown that it recognized the role of women and he welcomed the reforms being implemented in that area.  The report also mentioned a draft amendment, and he asked for more details, in addition to more information on the draft voting act regarding women. 

He also requested additional information about measures to enhance women’s presence in the judicial and security sectors.  Likewise, he asked if progress had been made to eliminate tuition for girls from poor families.  He asked how many women remained in prison after serving their sentences and if progress had been made in that area since the last report.

Turning to marginalized communities, he asked what the main obstacles were in dealing with that subject.  He asked the speaker to comment on contentions that a particularly community had suffered discrimination due to its support of former President Saleh.

Turning to various personal status laws, he said Yemen’s report noted the addition of provisions regarding polygamy and he asked for more information.  Another law stated that women could leave their home only with their husbands, and another condoned marital rape.  Also, he said women and girls were often forced into marriage, with articles of the personal status law that, among other things, required the groom to register a marriage.  He requested an explanation of how a woman’s rights were taken into consideration in those laws.  In addition, laws permitted a man to divorce his wife at will, while a woman must apply for a divorce.  One case involved an 11-year-old girl who was forced to marry a 40-year-old man and had sought a divorce, only to be told the girl’s family must return the dowry.  He asked if similar situations could be altered so the dowry would not have to be repaid.  He also asked for clarification of current discriminatory inheritance laws. 

Honour killings was an area of concern, as perpetrators were not charged with murder, and faced only a six-month to one-year prison sentence for convictions.  Violence against women was another problem recognized by Yemen’s report.  However, reporting domestic violence was rare, he said, asking the speaker to elaborate on how justice could be achieved for women victims of violence.

Regarding child abuse, he regretted the report’s silence on the subject and asked the speaker to provide information concerning the sexual exploitation of girls, particularly on the issue of temporary marriages.  He also asked for further information on the age of marriage, after an amendment that would set the legal age at 17 had been blocked.  Marriage registration was also not common, and he asked if the Government could address the problem.

He was concerned with the number of children involved in armed conflict.  He asked if the Government was taking measures to stop children from being recruited by the armed forces.  As many schools were occupied by armed forces, children were not attending school.  He asked how the Government was dealing with that problem.

GERALD NEUMAN, expert from the United States, first brought up the death penalty, saying the current law imposed that punishment too often.  He asked what steps were being taken to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.  He noted that the Covenant did not permit the death penalty to be imposed after unfair trials, yet he said reports showed that had occurred.  The Covenant also prohibited the death penalty to offenders younger than 18.  He asked for clarification on current laws.

Given a lack of birth records, he asked what methods the courts used to determine the age of juveniles.  The punishment of stoning was another concern, including a case several years ago.  If the State party agreed the practice was improper, he asked, why had it not eliminated it?

He said the definition of torture was too narrow and needed to be broadened to comply with provisions in the Covenant, and then asked for an update on the matter.  He asked what measures the State party had taken to address the legal framework for female genital mutilation and domestic violence.  He asked if there were laws enforced on the former.

Turning to asylum seekers, he recognized the State party had played an important role in the protection of Somali refugees.  He asked what steps the State party was taking in its treatment of foreign nationals, including non-Somali nationals.

Corporal punishment, including flogging and amputation, was an area that the Committee needed additional information on.  The numbers should be zero.  However, reports had shown they carried on with those punishments.  Corporal punishment was not lawful in schools, yet the practice seemed to continue.

Investigations of allegations on extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, use of force against Government critics and other related alleged crimes were rarely prosecuted, he said, asking for confirmation and for information on and the scope of amnesty laws covering the crimes of “government officials”, including a definition of that term.

“What steps is the new Government taking to ensure that the disproportionate use of military force will not be repeated?”  he asked.  He then asked about the State party’s position on targeted killings as a technique of counter-terrorism.  He also asked if pro-Government militias were outside the scope of the amnesty and what the Government was doing to control and prevent those crimes in the future.

MICHAEL O'FLAHERTY, expert from Ireland and Committee Vice-Chairperson, raised several points on issues of concern.  Not only did the State party criminalize same-sex relationships, it was one of seven countries that imposed the death penalty as a punishment.  He asked what the Government was doing to eliminate those laws.

Turning to killings from drone aircraft, he asked about the levels of deaths from those unmanned vehicles and how the Government was engaging in that matter, which was clearly a violation of the right to life.  The matter of the amnesty law was another concern, and he asked for more information about the programme of transitional justice, including a truth commission. 

On the ambiguity under which juveniles would face the death penalty, he sought clarification of the amendments that envisaged changes in laws that imposed that punishment on youth.

AHMAD AMIN FATHALLA, expert from Egypt, said, given the transitional nature of Yemen as well as its recent developments following the Arab Spring, he chose to comment only on the statement just made by its delegate.  The Minister said in a period of two years efforts had been made to implement the Covenant and that certain security and stability issues needed to be addressed.  He asked what steps had been taken to implement those measures, taking into consideration the wide use of weapons in Yemen and the absence of the rule of law.  He asked if those steps had already begun, and who would be responsible for Yemen’s commitment to implementing the Covenant.

Turning to security, he noted there was a link between the security apparatus and the respect of human rights.  The speaker had spoken about a truth and reconciliation commission and an independent judiciary, and he asked for details.

IULIA ANTOANELLA MOTOC, expert from Romania, agreed with Mr. Fathalla; however, she wondered how Yemen, given its present and past situation, could be aligned with the Covenant.  “There were certain measures being taken, but how would all those involved take part in the positive steps?” she asked, noting that executions, women’s rights and torture were among the violations reported. 

“How can we turn the page to the future?” she asked.  “If we do not have rule of law and a justice system that works efficiently, we cannot do anything with human rights.  How do we kick off a democratic tradition in a country that had gravely suffered?  We cannot do it overnight. It’s going to need a great deal of time.  We need to know what are the stages the country needs to go through and what are the priorities.”

WALTER KALIN, expert from Switzerland, noted that Yemen had been receiving a great number of refugees and had many internally displaced persons.  He was impressed at the aid the Government focused on helping those population.

However, draft legislation on the subject had never materialized.  He asked if the present Government would move ahead on that legislation to deal with a vulnerable group of people who had become victims of grave human rights violations.

Delegation’s Response

Concerning the commitment of the national accord Government, Ms. AHMED said there were “terms of reference” that transcended the Constitution:  the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, Security Council resolution 2014 (2011) and the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  “We rely on these mechanisms,” she said.  The holding of early presidential elections was not covered by the Constitution; rather, it had been covered by the Gulf Cooperation Council accord.

Concerning south Yemen, she said discussions were under way about local rule, but recent events were superseding the question of decentralized administration.  That issue would be addressed at the national reconciliation conference.  She touched on one particular meeting attended by representatives of the south, which she hoped would lead to southerners expressing their views.  “There will be a just solution for the question of the south,” she said.  Everyone wanted to preserve Yemen’s stability, a goal encouraged by regional partners and the entire international community.  The dialogue would determine the features of the new State.  To another point, she said there were no southerners in detention.

On the early retirement of southerners in the army, she said that had happened after the events of 1994.  Today, the transitional justice law addressed the question of compensation for early retirees.  Many problems were being addressed by that draft transitional justice law.  New blood must be pumped into local administration.

On article 6 of the new constitution, and the need to reflect international instruments in national law, she said Yemen had signed more than 60 covenants and treaties.  The Ministry and the national accord Government had aligned international agreements with national laws.  “This is something the national accord Government will try to adopt,” she said, because that would ultimately realize human rights.

As to whether Yemen had the capacity to maintain security, she said:  “In fact, Yemen does face many difficulties” from terrorist groups like Al-Qaida and the Houthis.  The Government struggled to extend its authority throughout the country.  If Yemen were to be overcome by chaos, that would affect the region, as it overlooked many waterways.

On the creation of an independent human rights entity, she said the European Union had held consultations to help create that body.  It was currently covered by the transitional justice law.  But, the Ministry believed its creation should be separate from that law.  Thus, it had dispatched technical teams to consult with other Government agencies and non-governmental organizations and the draft basic law for it.  She hoped the independent human rights body would be created within a year.

On the lack of respect by security forces for personal freedoms and illegal detentions, she said that the last year had seen many transgressions and violations.  The military was not always aware of the law and did not always understand the legal foundations for dealing with people.  That must be addressed through training and reform of military institutions.  Such issues were covered by the transitional justice law, which stated that military commanders suspected of human rights violations should be purged.  The draft law was being discussed with civil society, justice officials, academics and others.  It would be submitted to the Council of Ministers, before being sent to Parliament.

Regarding punishment for perpetrators of human rights violations, she said some members of the military and police had been detained for their use of excessive force.  Their cases were being investigated by the military justice system.

Turning to women, she said a Government entity responsible for improving women’s status had put forward several legal amendments, many of which had been approved by Parliament and were in force, including a law on the nationality of children born to women who were married to non-citizens.  Others laws approved related to labour and social security.  The law defining a minimum age for marriage had been particularly difficult to approve.  The committee for the codification for sharia law had requested more time to discuss it.  “We felt this suspension had gone on for a very long time.”  Other problems emerged in the House of Representatives.  “We consider these issues priorities,” but decision-makers had felt differently.

On political representation, she said a quota system had been discussed, especially for public elections and political parties.  She hoped to see a provision for it in the new constitution.

She said women had participated in elections, making up 43 per cent of the electorate.  They were also encouraged in the rolls, thus increasing women’s participation in the political sphere.  She said the Government wanted to increase the number of female candidates and the percentage of women in elected seats and that those and other ideas were being discussed leading up to the national accord conference.

She said the number of female judges and lawyers should also increase, noting that until 2004 the high institute for Judges did not admit women.  While participation was increasing in that area and in the police force, the numbers were not high enough, she said.  The problem was not with the law, but with their families, who should encourage them to pursue those and other professions.

Literacy was another challenge, with girls in rural areas often taken out of school, due, in part, to marriage.  Girls and women often worked in farming or at home.  Yemen had worked to cancel school fees for girls, efforts bolstered by international organizations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  However, due to current circumstances, 60 per cent of Yemeni women were illiterate. 

Turning to women detainees, many had remained in prison after serving their sentence, often because their families would not accept them.  Focusing then on marginalized communities, she said they were isolated, and civil society organizations were being created to defend their rights.  Yemen’s laws did not include any provisions to exclude or discriminate against those communities.

Concerning polygamy, there were no statistical studies.  However, sharia law governed that area, requiring justice and fairness in treatment.  If a wife felt she was being treated unfairly, she could request separation and an end of marriage with a divorce, she said.  Regarding laws limiting women’s movement from their homes or marital rape, there were no such laws, with no reports on the latter and scant evidence of the former.  In the decade she had worked with women’s issues, she had not received a single complaint about marital rape.  Right now, marital rape was not a problem in Yemen, she said.

Regarding marital laws, a woman must be asked if she was previously married and if she was a virgin.  She noted the existence of cases of fathers forcing their daughters to marry, but said forced marriage from the viewpoint of the sharia would be invalid.

Studies of inheritance cases included evidence that women inherited more than men.  In sharia law, women were not obliged to provide for their families, while men were, and some areas prevented women from inheriting.  The Government had an education programme to inform women of their inheritance rights.

On violence against women, she said Yemen was active with non-governmental organizations in seeking reform and implementing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other instruments, she said.

Concerning illegal immigration, she said there were preliminary studies on children in neighbouring countries.  In some situations, families got paid to send their children to neighbouring countries.  That was connected to poverty.  However, the problem had been receding, she said.  Regarding temporary marriage, until five or six years ago it had been a major problem.  However, controls had been put in place to resolve that issue, she said.

The Government had ordered investigations into allegations that school buildings were used by the armed forces, or as weapons storage.  While no schools had been found to store weapons, some of the schools had indeed been used temporarily by the army.

There was no law on physical punishment, she said.  She said certain questionable practices were used by certain armed groups, and especially the outlaws.  Children used by the armed forces were brought back by UNICEF.  Investigations had been made into the age of persons engaged in military actions, she said.

Turning to female genital mutilation, she said there was a plan to reduce the practice by 30 per cent.  That phenomenon existed in some provinces, including those close to Horn of Africa countries.  There had been dialogue with religious institutions and they confirmed that the phenomenon did not stem from religion.  In 1999, there had been a ban on those practices, and there had been a campaign launched to raise awareness of the harmful nature of those practices.  There were, however, no sanctions on those who performed these practices.

The amnesty law was one of the best, but most difficult, options for the Government.  The solution was to give immunity at the same time that the Government had been engaged in a frank dialogue with the parties concerned, with the aim of keeping the incidents in the national memory of her country while compensation was to be paid to victims.  Since 1990, Yemen had become a new country, she said.  Up until now, there had been no law to determine the duration of the interim measures undertaken.

As for terrorism and extrajudicial killings, Yemen was committed to international agreements.  That issue was connected with the situation on the international scale.  Civilians had been victims of terrorism.  However, there had not been enough information on the subject.  That issue had been tackled with the United States, with certain conversations on unmanned vehicles and on combating terrorism.  She noted there was a lack of transparency in the matter and said she was astonished and bothered by the current situation, whereby civilians had been killed by unmanned vehicles.

On security, she said arms should be withdrawn from armed groups.  A proposed draft law to withdraw those weapons was currently being discussed.  Only the army should have weapons, she said.  Within the current circumstances of general chaos, there were militias possessing weapons, but people should not have weapons or be moving them from one town to another.

On capital punishment for homosexuality, she said it was true that the law was based on the Islamic sharia.  However, now there were no cases of capital punishment enforced on homosexuals. 

Regarding the truth and reconciliation commission, she noted that it was not a judicial entity, but one that aimed to encourage people to think forward about the future, and not about the past.  “When we speak about the past it was to eradicate such practices and not to have such practices duplicated in the future,” she said.

Turning to the subject of refugees, she said Yemen had received many from African Horn countries and had signed an accord on refugees and asylum cases.  There were many refugees integrated into society; however, some remained in camps, and international organizations had provided assistance.

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*     The 2866th and 2867th Meetings were closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.