CIVICUS

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Yemen

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Last updated on 19.02.2019 at 09:56

Yemen-Overview

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.

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Yemen's human rights record examined by the UN as human rights defenders arrested

Yemen's human rights record examined by the UN as human rights defenders arrested

Association

Human rights defenders continue to operate at grave risk in Yemen despite ongoing efforts to bring the conflict to an end. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights reported that on 28th January 2019, two human rights defenders from the Saferworld’s office in Yemen - Awfa Al-Na’ami, the director, and her colleague Alhassan Al-Qawtari were arrested and held incommunicado for more than 15 days with no access to their families or a lawyer by the National Security (Mokabarat) Office in Sana’a, which is controlled by the Houthi forces. Both activists were summoned for a meeting on the date of arrest by the National Security (Mokabarat) Office. Awfa Al-Na’ami was released on 16th February while her colleague Alhassan Al-Qaqtari was released on 14th February 2019. Saferworld is an independent international organisation working to prevent violent conflict and build safer lives.

In January 2019, Yemen's human rights record was examined during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Ahead of the review civil society organisations had expressed grave concern about the situation for human rights defenders in the country. Human rights defenders are regularly abducted, kidnapped and detained in undisclosed locations, and some have been tortured. They are often subjected to smear campaigns, threats and judicial persecution, and the perpetrators typically enjoy impunity. Several CSOs have been raided by armed factions, had staff detained and family members threatened, leading to reduced activities or closure.

Expression

On 28th January 2019, journalist Sabri Salmeen bin Makhashin, who had been detained for nearly two months, was released from the Military Intelligence Service's prison in the province of Hadhramaut. Bin Makhashin, the editor-in-chief of “Al-Mohrer” newspaper, was arrested on 3rd December 2018. An appeal from his family five days after his detention stated that his health had already suffered as a result of poor conditions in prison, and that he had been refused medication, including for his diabetes. Despite health problems and lack of medication, bin Makhashin had been on hunger strike since his arrest. Authorities have not provided any reason for his arrest but local reports confirm that it was related to his publications on social media in which he criticised the governor of Hadhramaut, Faraj Al-Bahasni. After his release, his human right to move freely has been further restricted, as bin Makhashin was initially denied permission to leave the country to seek medical treatment for his deteriorating health, but was later on allowed to travel with his family to Cairo, Egypt.

Association

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.

Peaceful Assembly

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.

Expression

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.