People in Yemen have endured a turbulent time following the 2011 revolution. As the political crisis between Shia Houthi rebels and the government intensified to all out conflict in 2015, the impact on civilians has been catastrophic.read more
Radhya Al-Mutawakel is an internationally-recognised woman human rights defender (WHRD), honoured for her and her organisation's work to document human rights abuses in the face of escalating risks and grave danger in Yemen. To find out more about her work, the CIVICUS Monitor recently spoke to the WHRD to learn more about the issues and challenges facing civic and human rights groups in Yemen.
As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the chairperson for human rights at Mwatana Organization was named Defender of Human Rights and Freedom of Speech in October 2017. Radhya Al-Mutawakel is an internationally-recognised woman human rights defender (WHRD), honoured for her and her organisation's work to document human rights abuses in the face of escalating risks and grave danger in Yemen. To find out more about her work, the CIVICUS Monitor recently spoke to the WHRD to learn more about the issues and challenges facing civic and human rights groups in Yemen. A video of an interview with Al-Mutawakel can be seen below:
On 15th January 2018, Yemeni political analyst, rights activist and blogger Hisham Al-Omeisy was finally released after being held for five months, according to CIVICUS Monitor research partner the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). As previously reported, Al-Omeisy was arrested on 14th August 2017 and held incommunicado by Houthi forces. According to a local journalist, Al-Omeisy was detained for exchanging emails in English with U.S.-based organisations but was not charged with any crime.
On 9th January 2018, Al Jazeera’s Taiz office was forced to close in Yemen. Soldiers acting on orders from the Taiz Governorate Security Committee reportedly arrived at the office in Taiz and demanded its closure, according to Saeed Thabit Saeed, director of Al Jazeera in Yemen. The Taiz Security Committee stated that the closure was a result of the media outlet's “alleged attempts to create divisions between ‘legitimate authorities." A spokesperson for Al Jazeera Network commented on the situation:
"The Network calls on the authorities in the city of Taiz to reverse its decision and allow Al Jazeera's journalists to carry out their professional responsibilities duties without any hindrance or intimidation".
This is not the first time Al Jazeera has been targeted. In 2016, three journalists working for the media outlet were kidnapped in Taiz by unknown persons.
On 2nd December 2017, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported the storming of television channel Yemen Today by gunmen from the Ansar Allah movement and the detention of the channel's employees. The TV channel is reportedly linked to the People's Congress Party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was assassinated on 4th December 2017. Three people were injured in the storming of the building and 41 people were arrested, then later released on 13th December 2017.
In early December 2017, residents of cities in Yemen reported that they were unable to access social media sites, and that internet connectivity was very slow, according to the GCHR. Residents in the capital Sanaa and other cities, including Hajja and Amran, were blocked from accessing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
The Social Media Exchange reported that the internet was fully shut down for 30 minutes on 7th December, and that the Houthis were also throttling, or intentionally slowing down, connectivity across the country, in addition to blocking social media access.
The Yemeni constitution announced in January 2015 guarantees the freedom to form associations and civil society organisations.
The Yemeni constitution announced in January 2015 guarantees the freedom to form associations and civil society organisations. CSOs are obliged to register with the government and should notify authorities if receiving foreign funds. While independent trade unions do exist, their right to collective bargaining can be vetoed. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Yemen and members of the LGBTI community risk persecution from authorities and religious extremist groups; making the work of LGBTI organisations impossible. Since Houthi groups have taken control of government, new registrations of civil society have become non-existent. Only groups affiliated to the rebels are allowed to operate and independent groups working on working on human rights issues are particularly susceptible to attack. The Houthi rebels have orchestrated the systematic dissolution of CSOs operating in areas under their control. In 2015 alone, Amnesty International documented at least 27 NGOs forced out of operation in Sana’a. Rebel groups have targeted civic organisations for being “foreign agents”, implemented travel bans, raided NGO offices, as well as harassed, intimidated and surveiled NGO employees and activists.
Yemeni citizens, political parties, organisations and trade unions have a right to the freedom of peaceful assembly if they notify the authorities 72 hours in advance.
Yemeni citizens, political parties, organisations and trade unions have a right to the freedom of peaceful assembly if they notify the authorities 72 hours in advance. Despite such a lengthy notification period being in contravention of international best practice, traditionally the people of Yemen have been able to exercise their right to peacefully assembly. However, this ability to protest has been largely wiped out. On 24th March, 2015 Houthi rebels opened fired on a protest in South Yemen killing 6 people and wounding dozens. Protesters fear arrest, violence and retaliation for mobilising, drawing international condemnation over the dire situation for their rights. However, even in this repressive context some protests are allowed to take place. In March 2016, tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered in Sana’a to show their opposition to the Saudi led bombing campaigns.
Despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, journalists in Yemen face extraordinary risks.
Despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, journalists in Yemen face extraordinary risks. After the 2011 revolution the number of print and electronic media increased, but these gains were short lived. The breakdown of security, political crisis and open conflict mean that independent reporters are regularly subjected to censorship, threats and violence. At least 13 journalists have been killed in Yemen since 1992. In practice, state and non-state actors control the airwaves. Arbitrary detention and abduction of critical journalists is rife meaning that self-censorship is imperative to ensure survival. Furthermore, internet freedom is increasingly controlled by the authorities, depriving freedom of expression on the net. All of these factors combine to make Yemen one of the worst performing countries for media freedom in the world.