Former President, Aides Retain Immunity
(Sanaa) – Yemen’s government should create a commission of inquiry into serious human rights violations by the previous government and prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2014. The government should also pass legislation to end child marriage and reform laws that discriminate against women.
In 2012, Yemen’s parliament granted immunity from prosecution to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had held power for 33 years, and to his aides. President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has not followed up on promises to pass a transitional justice law, impanel a commission of inquiry into government abuses during the uprising in 2011, or create any other mechanisms to provide accountability for past violations or prevent future ones.
“The government needs to address the past, both to provide justice for the victims and to make sure the abuses stop once and for all,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director.“For two years the Hadi administration has ignored the demands for justice from people harmed by the Saleh government.”
In the 667-page world report, its 24th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. Syria’s widespread killings of civilians elicited horror but few steps by world leaders to stop it, Human Rights Watch said. A reinvigorated doctrine of “responsibility to protect” seems to have prevented some mass atrocities in Africa. Majorities in power in Egypt and other countries have suppressed dissent and minority rights. And Edward Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance programs reverberated around the globe.
A six-month national dialogue began in March to make recommendations to guide the upcoming drafting of a new constitution. The process has involved 565 representatives of political parties and various segments of society, including women and youth. Working groups on transitional justice and rights and freedoms have recommended improvements in rights protections. The dialogue has continued past the six-month timetable.
Media freedom has greatly improved since President Hadi took office in February 2012, but there has been an increase in assaults by security forces and various armed groups on journalists and bloggers. The government’s failure to investigate these attacks and hold those responsible to account has called into question the government’s commitment to promoting human rights, Human Rights Watch said.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) carried out dozens of deadly bombings and other attacks on Yemeni security forces during 2013. The United States carried out at least 23 drone strikes on alleged members of the Al-Qaeda-linked group from January through November, killing between 95 and 162 people, research groups who track the strikes reported. But neither government has reported or confirmed the number of civilian casualties.
Women face severe discrimination in law and in practice in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said. Women are not allowed to marry without the permission of their male guardians, usually a father or brother. They are denied equal rights to divorce, inheritance, and child custody, and a lack of legal protection leaves them exposed to domestic and sexual violence.
Child marriage remains widespread. During 2013, doctors and the media reported the deaths of child brides as young as eight following intercourse or childbirth. Yemen has not legislated a minimum age of marriage, though the National Dialogue’s Rights and Freedoms Working Group in November recommended establishing 18 as the minimum age.