Human Rights violations:

A recent report by Yemeni human rights organizations presented to the United Nations Committee Against Torture reveals serious human rights violations by the Yemeni National Security Agency against Yemeni jurists and human rights activists. Moreover, Amnesty International recently reported police brutality and torture of detainees held in connection with politically motivated acts or protests. Reported methods of torture included beating with sticks, punching, kicking, prolonged suspension by the wrists or ankles, burning with cigarettes, being stripped naked, denial of food and prompt access to medical help, and threats of sexual abuse. The same report also indicates sentences of flogging being frequently carried out after being handed down by the courts for sexual abuses and alcohol offences. In addition, several protesters were reported to be killed as a result of excessive use of force by the security forces during peaceful protests. However, no independent investigations have been carried out.

Furthermore, a recent Human Rights Watch report includes allegations of serious violations of the laws of war by governmental and Huthis forces, including the use of children under 18 in combat, use of anti-personal landmines in civilian areas, and taking civilians hostage. Additionally, the same report reveals allegation of aerial bombing and artillery shelling on populated villages by governmental forces.

Gender-specific issues:

Women in Yemen face violence and discrimination on a regular basis. For instance, women are not free to marry who they want and some children as young as eight are forced to marry. Furthermore, once married, women must obey their husbands and even obtain permission to leave the house. In regards to the law, women’s testimony in court is valued only as half as that of men. Women are also denied equal treatment in terms of inheritance, if not completely denied. Moreover, the courts treat men leniently with regards to honor killings.

Amnesty International reports that violence against women is common in Yemen, perpetrated by the state, the community and the family, and no specific law protects women from domestic violence. Meanwhile, social norms allow men to hit their wives, daughters and sisters. Moreover, visible proof of domestic violence usually needs to be shown before the authorities, but women are often blamed for causing it.

The Refugee Situation:

As of mid-November 2009, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 175,000 people have been displaced by the five-year conflict between the authorities and the Huthis tribe that escalated in August 2009. Elderly people, single mothers and children represent the majority of the new arrivals in refugee camps. The latest sudden influx of refugees due to the intensification of the combat is adding more pressure on an already dire situation, and causing overcrowding in camps.

Meanwhile, as of mid-November 2009, the UNCHR is anticipating a continuous influx of internally displaced persons in Yemen.

Additionally, Yemen hosts over 40,000 Somali refugees who survived the hazardous crossing of the Gulf of Aden, where many have drowned or been killed by human traffickers. Moreover, according to a recent report of Amnesty International, some 1,300 asylum-seekers were returned involuntarily to their countries.

Written by Linda Bouzembrak