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Yemen/UN: Allies Should Press Yemen on Human Rights Violations

Briefing Paper Offers Guidelines for International Engagement to Address Terrorism

(London) - Governments participating in a high-level meeting on Yemen in London on January 27, 2010, should press the Yemeni authorities to  address the country's serious human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper issued today. Yemen's human rights violations have alienated large segments of Yemeni society, weakening the government's ability to address the threat posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Human Rights Watch said.

"Efforts to fight al Qaeda in Yemen will be ineffective if they ignore the country's grave human rights situation," said Tom Porteous, London director of Human Rights Watch. "The grievances caused by the government's repressive practices and violations of the laws of war exacerbate Yemen's instability."

In its briefing paper, Human Rights Watch offered seven principles for countries cooperating with Yemen in the fight against terrorism.  It urged them to heed the lessons from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in particular that military tactics such as airstrikes that cause high civilian casualties undermine efforts to reduce local support for al Qaeda. Armed militant groups thrive when the government does not have the support of its people, and repressive police and military tactics can create resentment, causing counterterrorism efforts to backfire, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch urged participating governments to press Yemen to end its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. In their handling of an armed conflict with Huthi rebels in the north, and social unrest spurred by the separatist Southern Movement in the south, the Yemeni authorities have flouted the requirements of international law. The London meeting was called to develop strategies for countering radicalization and coordinating aid to Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country.

Human Rights Watch recommended the deployment of a United Nations human rights monitoring mission to report publicly on human rights abuses by all actors in Yemen.

"Yemenis are entitled to protection from violence by government security forces and rebel groups," Porteous said. "Yemen urgently needs a UN protection mechanism to halt the slide into even greater violence."

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