Yemen has acceded to six of the seven major United Nations conventions on human rights, namely: the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights; on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1987), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1972), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1984), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1991), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991). Moreover, Yemen has acceded to the two optional protocols of the Rights of the Child Convention concerned with the involvement of children in armed conflicts, sale of children, exploiting children in prostitution and pornographic materials (2005).
Yemen has also acceded to the eight International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on human rights, namely: the two conventions (87 and 98) on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (1970 and 1969 respectively), the two conventions (29 and 105) on Forced or Compulsory Labour (1969), the two conventions (100 and 111) concerning the Elimination of Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (1976 and 1969 respectively) and the two conventions (138 and 182) pertaining to Forbidding the Employment of Children and Minors (2000).
Yemen made reservations on certain provisions of the conventions it acceded to:
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: general reservation on recognizing Israel or establishing any relations with Israel.
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: general reservation that acceding to this convention does not imply recognizing Israel. Article (22) on ways of resolving disputes among states over implementing or interpreting the convention; Yemen believes that all concerned parties must agree on referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice. Article (17 and 18/1) concerning the provisions of accession to the convention; Yemen believes that these provisions deprive several states from acceding to the convention, and considers that a sort of discrimination.
Reservation on Article (5/H, 5/D and paragraphs 4, 6 and 7).
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Article (29/1) concerning ways of resolving disputes among states over implementing or interpreting the convention.
Yemen has agreed to the "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam" issued in 1990 by foreign ministers of Muslim countries. The declaration is a guiding document that does not require ratification. Yemen also acceded to the "Arab Charter of Human Rights/Amended" prepared by the Arab Summit in Tunisia in May 2004, but did not ratify it like most Arab states.
Human Rights Institutions
Yemen has a large number of governmental, parliamentary and non-governmental human rights organizations. At the governmental level, the government established a national committee for women that formulated a national strategy for women approved by government in 1997. The strategy aimed at striving to make Yemeni women an effective social force in family and society. The strategy also set general directives for combating poverty, improving the condition of poor women, enhancing their education and improving their health. The government also established the "Higher National Committee for Human Rights" (1999). The committee consists of agencies directly concerned with human rights. It is entrusted with setting policies, plans and programs that protect human rights and enhance the role of agencies that deal with human rights cases. However, the government dropped the National Committee in 2003 and established the "Ministry of Human Rights" that took over the tasks of the National committee, in addition to proposing amendments of national legislation, receiving and tackling citizens' complaints.
However, statements by Yemeni officials since mid-2005 indicate that the government is reviewing its stance towards the ministry of human rights as a mechanism for advancing human rights. The government is thinking of establishing an independent national institution for human rights.
At the parliamentary level, there is a permanent committee called "Rights and Public Freedoms Committee". This committee plays an important role in ratifying international human rights conventions. Its jurisdiction covers monitoring national legislation and Yemen's obligations towards international conventions, investigating human rights cases and violations. It also has the power to question the government over human rights violations. The parliament has another permanent committee called "The Committee for Removing Grievances" that brings up and discusses grievances related to human rights. It also investigates human rights complaints and violations, as well as questioning the government over human rights violations. The parliament also has the "Rights and Freedoms Committee of the Consultative Council", that plays a consultative role in enhancing human rights and protecting the press and civil society organizations.
At the level of non-governmental organizations, Yemen has many human rights organizations. Some NGOs deal with all human rights, such as "The Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights and Basic Freedoms" (1992). Other NGOs specialize in enhancing human rights, such as "Information and Rehabilitation Center for Human Rights" (1995), while other NGOs specialize in women's rights, such as "Women Studies Center" (1994) and "Yemeni Women's Forum for Research and Training" (2000).
A well documented study published in 2006 lists 64 NGOs registered with the ministry of social affairs and labor and the ministry of culture and tourism that are active in the area of human rights. Their activities cover several areas. Three activities have equal share (16.7% of total activities) namely: training and raising public awareness, women's rights (political employment and fighting violence), children and teenagers. Defending human rights 5%, human rights violations and providing legal assistance (3% each). Training human rights activists, defending political prisoners, defending freedom of press, defending missing persons, rights of persons with special needs, research on human rights, poverty alleviation and development issues, legislative and legal reforms (1.7% each). [Abdel Baqi Shamsan], "NGOs working on human rights: a field study". Ministry of Human Rights, The Yemeni Journal of Human Rights, issue No.1, 2006, pp. 59 – 111).
Achievements on the Road to Good Governance
1. Presidential elections took place in September 2006. Five candidates competed in these elections namely: President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Faysal Shamlan, Fathi Al-Azab, Yasine Abdo Sa'eed and Ahmad Al-Majeedi. Participation rate was high. Official results announced on September 23 showed that President Saleh won 77.17% of votes, while his rival Shamlan (candidate of the opposition) won 21.82% of votes. Remaining votes were shared by the other 3 candidates.
2. As part of enhancing judicial authority, the Yemeni parliament approved an amendment to the law of the Judicial Authority whereby the president of the Supreme Appeals court (the highest judicial body) heads the Higher Judicial Council that was previously chaired by President Saleh in violation of the principle of separation of powers stipulated in the constitution.