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States welcome the High Commissioner's report on Yemen
Friday, 23 September 2011 16:47


On 19 September 2011, the Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue with Ms Kyung-wha Kang, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the situation of human rights in the Republic of Yemen. At the June 2011 session the Council adopted procedural decision 17/117 on Yemen, requesting the High Commissioner to report on the situation in the country. In April 2011, the High Commissioner proposed a mission by a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Yemen to assess the human rights situation. OHCHR visited Yemen from 28 June to 6 July 2011. In accordance with procedural decision 17/117, the High Commissioner was to report back to the Council on the Yemen mission.

 

The Deputy High Commissioner presented the report, and noted with appreciation the cooperation the mission had received from the Yemeni government, which had provided full access and enabled the mission to meet with a range of stakeholders including Government ministers, the judiciary, and civil society actors.

 

She highlighted the challenges in Yemen which have further complicated the human rights situation in the country. She pointed to alleged Al-Qaeda sects, a strong secessionist movement in the south of Yemen, and numerous resignations of senior officials as examples.

 

She also raised a number of concerns and alleged human rights violations. Of particular concern were reports of excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by Yemen against peaceful protestors. A number of specific incidents were highlighted in which security forces had killed dozens of peaceful protesters. The report suggested that security forces had not been properly trained or equipped to deal with peaceful protests. Ms Kang also noted the arbitrary arrest and torture of protesters, and withholding of medical treatment from protesters. Concern was raised over the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions and general standards of living. Basic services including electricity and water had been cut off. The Deputy High Commissioner reported that the Yemeni Government had argued that the cutting of such services was due to acts of sabotage by armed opponents, however those interviewed had stated their belief that the cutting of services was by the Government in an attempt to punish protesters. Vulnerable groups had also suffered. Women and children had been subjected to the same violence experienced by men, and children had been recruited by armed forces.

 

The Deputy High Commissioner also noted the report’s finding that armed opponents of the Government were partly to blame for the human rights crisis in Yemen.

 

The Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abubakr Abdullah Alqerbi, was present to respond to the presentation of the report. Overall, that response was constructive. Dr Alquerbi affirmed Yemen’s commitment to human rights and to working with OHCHR to address the current human rights situation in Yemen. Dr Alquerbi also affirmed Yemen’s belief in democracy and referred to the latest Presidential elections, which had been internationally commended, as support for this.

 

The Minister pointed to the fact that the President and the Government have made a number of proposals in an effort to meet the demands of protestors, including reforming the system of government from a presidential system to a parliamentary system, electoral reform, and the formation of a national accord government. These proposals have all been rejected by the opposition.

 

Dr Alquerbi also noted evidence presented by the Yemeni Government purporting to prove that many allegations of wrongdoing by Government security forces were false. Evidence had also been provided to show that some investigations and referrals to the judiciary regarding the security forces had taken place.

 

Dr Alqerbi expressed Yemen’s willingness to deal positively with the report of the mission and to implement those recommendations made in the report which are consistent with the Yemeni Government's own policies and steps towards protecting human rights.

 

However, the Minister rejected the recommendation of OHCHR for international, transparent and independent investigations into credible allegations of human rights abuses committed by Government security forces.i It was argued that the recommendation was inconsistent with OHCHR’s recommendation that the Yemeni political parties seek to resolve their political differences through open and transparent dialogue.ii However, the Minister proposed an alternative to the recommendation by OHCHR to launch independent investigations, and suggested the establishment of an independent and neutral national commission formed by all Yemeni political parties so as to undertake an evidence-based investigation into violations of human rights.

 

Dr Alquerbi requested international cooperation and assistance to support Yemen in addressing its human rights situation, including through combatting terrorism, fostering a national dialogue, bulding respect for human rights, and achieving sustainable development. This call was echoed by a number of States, including Thailand, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United Arab Emirates, who urged greater support from the international community to assist Yemen in this regard.

 

States commended the cooperation of Yemen with the mission and thanked the Minister for being present at the interactive dialogue. States welcomed the report of the High Commissioner and overwhelmingly supported its recommendations. A number of concerns were picked up on by States including the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters by Government security forces and the lack of independence of the Yemeni judiciary.

 

In her concluding remarks Ms Kang stated that Yemen’s immediate priority should be to take action to end attacks against peaceful protestors, to implement independent domestic investigations, and to end the use of child soldiers. OHCHR would work closely with Yemen to assist with affecting these immediate priorities. Ms Kang noted that although OHCHR had no official presence in Yemen at the current time, information was continually being sourced from the ground. Accordingly, the situation in Yemen was closely being monitored, albeit via secondary information.

 

The UK questioned the Deputy High Commissioner on what action was needed for the strengthening of the right to freedom of expression and assembly. According to Ms Kang, it was important that all those who had been detained for exercising that right be released by the Yemeni authorities. Visits to Yemen by relevant Special Rapporteurs was also considered necessary to strengthen the right to freedom of expression and assembly, through reporting on the right and how it was being implemented.

 

Concerns were raised by some States that the report failed to take into consideration the comments of the Yemeni government. Ms Kangnoted that the report reflected both the position of the Government and the opposition. OHCHR had shared a draft report with the Government and revised it to ensure the Government’s position was noted.

 

i Report of the High Commissioner on OHCHR’s visit to Yemen, Advanced Unedited Version, [77], UN Doc. A/HRC/18/21 (2011) at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/YE/YemenAssessmentMissionReport.pdf.

ii Ibid, [99].

Last Updated on Monday, 26 September 2011 11:29
 
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