Laws of Associations
Law No.1 of 2001 on Associations and Foundations, Law No. 66 for 1991, the Draft Law on Organized Demonstrations of 1993, and the Draft Law regulating Social and Cultural Associations, Federations, Forums, Professional Unions, and Charitable Societies of 1997 regulate associative life in Yemen. Yemeni non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may not be involved in political activities. The ministry of interior banned on October 6, 2007 all unlicensed demonstrations. An authorized source in the ministry warned political parties, organizations and groups against organizing any demonstration or rally without obtaining a prior permission from the ministry of interior.
The Parties and Political Organizations Law No. 66 for 1991 makes no distinction between political parties and political organizations. According to this law, Yemeni political parties may not contradict Islam, endorse any of the former regimes of the imams or the sultans before the revolution, disrupt the general order and security, use mosques or educational and governmental facilities to promote or criticize any party or political organization, or limit membership to any geographical region, tribe, sect, class, or profession. Parties may use public land for political activities with prior consultation with the relevant authorities.
The registration procedures require a political party to provide an application signed by 75 founding members, verified in a court of law. The party also has to provide a list showing at least 2,500 members distributed across the country. The current ruling party is the General People's Congress Party (GPC). Other noteworthy parties include the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Tajmu al-Yamani li al-Islah) and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). Before the unification of the Republic of Yemen, the GPC and the YSP were the ruling parties of North and South Yemen respectively.
Government funding for political parties is available, with 25 percent of the total to be shared equally by all parties represented in parliament and the remaining 75 percent divided in proportion to the share of votes obtained by each party at a general election (excluding those that won less than five percent of the total votes).
A party may not accept any gifts, merits, or services from non-Yemeni individuals or parties. It must provide a detailed record of its financial affairs; including the notification of the government of any single donation over 100,000 riyals (about $700) or multiple donations from a single source exceeding 200,000 riyals.
Registration is supervised by the Committee for the Affairs of Parties and Political Organizations (CAPPO), consisting of the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs (as chairman), the Interior Minister and the Justice Minister and four non-party members who must be either retired judges or lawyers. The law specifies no grounds for refusing the registration of a party. The CAPPO is authorized to file an urgent request with the relevant court to stop the activities of a party or disable its decisions if it commits any illegal activities. The court must decide on the request within fifteen days, and the party has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, which must issue its final decision within ninety days.
The Law of 2001 on Associations has generally been considered a progressive replacement for the 1963 law that preceded it. The new law placed associations under the oversight of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Applications to form an association must be submitted to that ministry and are considered accepted by default 30 days after their submission if no response is received by that time. Potential associations must have at least 21 members at the time of application and 41 members at the constituent meeting. Foreign funding is permitted upon notification of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Activities sponsored by foreign funds must obtain prior approval from the ministry. Associations are exempt from taxes and tariffs, and receive a 50% reduction in electricity and water costs. Violations of the 2001 law entail large fines and imprisonment for a year, and board members of an association are held liable in certain cases. Draft versions of the law prohibited foreign funding and required the creation of a single umbrella organization to subsume all NGOs, but vigorous opposition led to the elimination of these provisions in parliamentary debate.
Associations and Unions
The Constitution and the Labor Law guarantee workers’ right to organize. The General Federation of Trade Unions in Yemen (GFWTUY) is an umbrella union composed of 14 unions. Although the law does not require unions to join GFWTUY, all current unions are members. The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the Aden Chamber of Commerce are also important umbrella organizations.
Human rights organizations, both local and foreign, operate without serious impediment in Yemen. Important organizations include the Forum for a Civil Society, the Yemen Institute for Democracy Development, the Human Rights Information and Training Center, the Women's Affairs Support Center, the Sisters Arabic Forum, and the Civic Democratic Forum. In 2003, the Supreme National Committee for Human Rights was replaced by the Ministry of Human Rights, charged with formulating policy to promote the development of human rights
Media and Government Regulations
Yemen's press is considered among the freest in the Arab region. There are only one television station and two newspapers. The Press and Publications Law No. 25 for 1990 regulates the Yemeni media. The Ministry of Information supervises the implementation of its provisions. The law has given the right to any Yemeni citizen, institution, political party or group to publish newspapers and/or magazines. But the law stipulates that these publications must never be funded by foreign sources, and that they should keep clear and accurate financial statements. Press freedom was brought into question in 2001 as several journalists were jailed or fined; a presidential amnesty was issued in July 2002 for all previous cases against journalists. The Penal Code stipulates a penalty of 5 years for “humiliation of the State” or distribution of “false information,” and both charges have been used against journalists. Despite recent challenges, the Yemeni press continues to engage in lively debate over government legislation and policies.