Human rights in countries of concern - Yemen
The National Unity Government (NUG) has repeatedly stated its intention to uphold basic rights, tackle impunity and investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses, but implementation has been slow. Calls by the international community for transparent investigations into the violence and deaths of over 200 civilian protesters in 2011, the wholesale release of political prisoners, the passing of a law on transitional justice, improving basic services to ordinary Yemenis and protecting civilians from armed conflict have not yet been addressed. Some, but not all, activists detained during Yemen’s Arab Spring have been released. Promises were made to conduct investigations according to international standards, and a decree issued in September to set up a panel, but there is no evidence of further action. The humanitarian situation remains critical and there are over half a million internally displaced persons, many of whom fear returning to their homes because of the threat of armed conflict, instability and the lack of state control. We welcome the signing of the agreement by the Yemen authorities and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in September to formalise the opening of an OHCHR office in Yemen. The human rights ministry has proactively raised the profile of human rights, making preparations for the creation of an independent national human rights institution and also, on 9–10 December, organising Yemen’s first national human rights conference.
The security, economic and humanitarian situations in Yemen remain fragile. A political transition, unique in the region, is edging forward but remains delicate and complex. The UK took a leading role in restarting and reinvigorating the Friends of Yemen process, which the Foreign Secretary co-chairs with his Saudi and Yemeni counterparts. The Friends of Yemen provides international support for Yemen’s political transition whilst holding the Yemeni government accountable for progress, including on implementing a transitional justice law. At two meetings of the Friends, and together with a conference of donors, nearly $8 billion was raised for development projects, including £196 million from the UK. The UK also supported UN Security Council Resolution 2051, which includes the principle of an end to impunity and importance of accountability. The UK sponsored resolutions at the March and September sessions of the Human Rights Council encouraging the NUG to implement OHCHR recommendations, in particular on detentions, to end the recruitment of child soldiers and encourage the participation of women in public and private spheres. We urged the NUG to ratify a law on transitional justice and worked through the EU to lobby the NUG to end the practice of juvenile capital punishment.
In 2013, we expect the Yemeni government formally to adopt the transitional justice law, but as this is likely to be a non-judicial process, we expect it will not address all the concerns of those affected by violence up to and including in 2011. President Hadi is expected to announce the start of the National Dialogue Conference. This is a key milestone of transition designed to bring together all parts of Yemeni society, including southerners, women and youth groups, to build consensus on the future of Yemen. In December, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt visited Yemen and travelled to Aden to encourage the participation of southern Yemeni factions in the National Dialogue. The conference will provide a platform for the expression of long-standing grievances and will conclude with recommendations on constitutional and electoral reform. In parallel, we expect the Yemeni electoral commission to conclude updating the electoral register to enable millions of entitled voters to participate. A referendum on a new constitution will follow.
The UK will continue to support the Yemeni government’s efforts to improve its human rights record, including through additional support at the fifth meeting of the Friends of Yemen due to be hosted by the UK on 7 March 2013. The importance of transitional justice and reconciliation, and independent investigations into allegations of human rights abuses and violations, was underlined at the last meeting in New York. We will participate in reviewing progress by the NUG at the Human Rights Council in September 2013.
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