December 15, 2009

I. Recommendations

To the Government of Yemen

  • Ensure that state security forces abide by international policing standards, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, when responding to protests, and in particular restricting the use of firearms to situations of imminent threat of death or serious injury, or the equivalent.
  • Establish an independent commission of inquiry with full authority to investigate the use of excessive force by the state security services against Southern Movement protests which should report speedily.
  • Investigate and hold accountable, through prosecutions, disciplinary proceedings and other measures, state security officials who have engaged in, or ordered the use of, excessive force against unarmed protests.
  • End the arbitrary detention of protesters by the security forces, and release those who remain in detention without charge. Any remaining detainees should be speedily brought before an independent judicial body with the power to review their detention and order their immediate release.
  • Ensure that all security forces act within the limits of the law when arresting and detaining persons, and close all unauthorized detention facilities.
  • End the use of vague and overbroad criminal charges, such as articles 125 and 126 of the Crimes and Punishment Law of 1994 that punish by death anyone who “intentionally undermines the independence of the republic and its unity and the integrity of its territory,” and “broadcasts news or ... false rumors ... or intends advocacy causing panic among the people or weakening the the people’s moral spirit,” respectively, and article 136 that punishes with three years in prison “broadcasting false news ... or rumors ... with the intent to disturb public order ... or damage public interests.” Repeal these articles, and amend articles 127, 128, 129, and 131 to remove overly broad and vague charges.
  • Ensure that all detained suspects are treated in accordance with international human rights standards, including, to have access to a lawyer of their choice, to be held in humane conditions free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and not to be held in long-term detention without trial or access to the judiciary.
  • Adopt procedures to ensure that children under age 18 are detained only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Mandate that children are never detained with adults, in accordance with international standards.
  • Respect and protect the right of all persons to peacefully assemble and to associate with others. Any limitation on these rights should be strictly minimal: i.e. it must not be arbitrary and be clearly based in law; can only be for a legitimate reason and the restriction should only be to the minimum extent necessary to meet the aim. .
  • Thoroughly review—and revise as necessary—the training curriculum for security forces to ensure comprehensive training on human rights issues including respect for the rights to freedom of assembly, association, and freedom of expression and non-lethal forms of crowd control.
  • Ensure that pro-government organizations, including the Committees to Protect Unity, do not engage in vigilante violence against government critics and opponents. Investigate, and if appropriate prosecute, all allegations of violence by pro-government militias as well as opposition forces.
  • End the arbitrary arrest, prosecution, and intimidation of independent journalists, bloggers, and editors reporting on the Southern Movement and abuses by security forces in the south. Pardon those charged or convicted of acts protected under the right to free speech.
  • Stop closing down or suspending independent newspapers for reporting on the Southern Movement and abuses by security forces in the south.
  • Review and amend legislation to ensure that Yemeni law does not criminalize protected forms of expression and exchange of information, including through electronic media or contact with international human rights organizations. In particular, decriminalize peaceful advocacy for secession, which, as a political discussion, is a strongly protected from of speech under freedom of expression. Ensure that there is minimal interference in peaceful political discussion.

To the Southern Movement

  • Publicly reject acts of violence by Southern Movement activists or sympathizers against northerners; ensure that any such attacks are investigated and that those responsible are held accountable.

To Yemen’s Neighbors and Donors

  • Publicly criticize human rights abuses committed by the Yemeni security forces, in particular the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, the use of vague and overbroad criminal charges to carry out arbitrary arrests and long-term detentions, including of children, and widespread violations of rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression, and academic freedom. Call for all children detained around the protests to be released pending trial, if any, and that children in detention be separated immediately from adults.
  • Advocate for greater media freedom in Yemen, including the electronic media, and publicly criticize closures of newspapers, as well as threats against, arrests, and prosecutions of journalists, bloggers, and editors who report on the Southern Movement and abuses by security forces in the south.
  • Call for the release of all persons held arbitrarily, and for the Yemeni authorities to clarify immediately the whereabouts of “disappeared” individuals believed to be held in secret, incommunicado detention.
  • Call on Yemeni authorities to investigate abuses committed by security forces and prosecute those found to be responsible.
  • Make it clear to the Yemeni authorities that international assistance, including financial, military, and diplomatic support, will be contingent upon improvements in Yemen’s human rights conduct, and develop clear benchmarks with which to monitor Yemen’s human rights record. Ensure that all forms of assistance to Yemen are carefully monitored to ensure that they do not contribute to human rights abuses committed by security forces.
  • Strengthen assistance programs to Yemen that focus on educating and monitoring security forces in non-lethal crowd control and respect for international human rights standards.
  • Ensure that non-lethal crowd control assistance programs are not abused by the Yemeni authorities to restrict the exercise of rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.