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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

11 May 2009 (afternoon)

For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Yemen this afternoon, during which 62 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Afghanistan, following the review of the country on Thursday, 7 May.

· Presenting the national report of Yemen was HUDA ALI ALBAN, Minister for Human Rights of Yemen, noted that the report of Yemen was discussed in an open workshop and involved the participation of some 14 civil society organizations along with the same number of government bodies. Yemen was witnessing a growing trend of legislative and institutional guarantees which represented the basis for the empowerment of civil society institutions and members of the society to engage in the actual practice of the principles and values of rights and freedoms. This trend also allowed civil society to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life. The Government of Yemen was of the view that democracy and human rights constituted an integrated system, the most striking evidence of which was the ratification of more than 56 international conventions and instruments by the State and the establishment of a Ministry of Human Rights since 2003.

The head of delegation provided responses to a series of questions submitted in advance. As regards the judiciary, it was noted that all trials all trials were conducted in accordance with constitutional and legal procedures, and based on principle that the accused was innocent until proven guilty. There was an effective institutional mechanism to evaluate the performance of judges on a regular basis and to hold judges in error accountable for their acts. The judiciary did not approve the death penalty except in the most serious crimes. This penalty has never been executed against any Yemeni citizen or non-Yemenis outside the concerned judicial mechanism. Moreover, this penalty was limited and confined entirely to cases determined in accordance with legal provisions and had judicial guarantees that minimized executions, including the right of the President of the Republic to pardon those sentenced in cases specified by the law. The Yemeni Penal Code defined the age of full criminal responsibility by eighteen years at the time the perpetrator committed the crime. The law did not permit the imprisonment of children in penal facilities and obliged the Attorney General’s Office to place the juvenile in a care and rehabilitation home.

As for the efforts of Yemen in addressing discrimination and violence against women, the Constitution of the Republic of Yemen stipulated that citizens were equal in terms of the rights and duties and the Government has taken a number of actions to address discrimination and violence against women. Tackling the problem of violence against women took various forms, including the formulation of a strategy containing targets and measures. The Yemeni Network for Combating Violence against Women was established in 2003 and the first Yemeni Conference on Combating Violence against Women was held in 2001. A number of studies on domestic violence were also conducted. As regards the so-called "tourist marriage", a limited number of cases occurred in a prior period and ended after the official authorities took strict measures to hold accountable those who were behind them. The adoption by the House of Representatives of the age of seventeen as the minimum marriage age has made the marriage of minor girls to a Yemeni or non-Yemeni a crime subjecting its perpetrator to legal penalty. The law will be implemented upon completion of its issuance procedures. As to gender equality, six years ago, the Gender Strategy was also approved to realize equality in practice between men and women.

Concerning the reference to the issue of the persecution of religious minorities in Yemen, the Government affirmed that such reports were not correct, the Minister stated. As an example in this regard, Jewish Yemeni citizens enjoyed all the rights provided for in the Constitution and the laws in force as other Yemeni citizens. With regard to allowing international organizations to visit detention places, the Government of Yemen provided all the facilities required to carry out the visits with the utmost ease. With regard to the establishment of an independent national human rights body in accordance with the Paris Principles, the Minister informed that the Council of Ministers of Yemen issued a decision to study the establishment of this body and the Government was moving forward in this direction.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the establishment of a Ministry for Human Rights; the decision to set up a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles; the ratification of the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; the establishment of the Higher Council for Women; accession to the main international human rights instruments; the reduction in the infant mortality rate; steps taken to curb the negative impact of the current economic crisis; steps being taken to combat corruption; efforts undertaken to address the needs of refugees in Yemen; and legislative and constitutional achievements in the filed of human rights.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, the activities of the Ministry of Human Rights; the lessons learned with regard to the training courses for the competent authorities in the relevant ministries held in cooperation with the OHCHR to raise awareness of humanitarian welfare for refugees; measures taken to abolish death by stoning; measures to ensure that no minors are sentenced to harsh prisons sentences; information about reports of juvenile offenders on death row in Yemen; plans to amend the Personal Status Law and Citizenship Law; how the Government ensured an effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child when it came to halt executions of juveniles; measures to put an end to domestic violence against women; steps being taken to eradicate the problem of child trafficking; the plans of the Government to enhance access to education in rural areas; measures to increase school attendance rates; steps to reduce illiteracy rates; and the extent to which climate change contributed to the problem of water scarcity.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To continue to incorporate women’s issues into government policies; to amend the Personal Status Law and Citizenship Law to prevent discrimination and violence against women; to take concrete measures to ensure the economic, social and political participation of women; to continue efforts with amending legislation and strengthen measures to deal with the problem of violence against women and girls, including honour killings; to become a party to the Optional Protocol of Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; to ensure the full implementation of the recently formulated National Action Plan for the eradication of female genital mutilation from Yemen; to redouble advocacy efforts to enhance public awareness on gender equality and women’s role in social and economic development; to develop a comprehensive policy to address the issue of gender discrimination in employment; and to rehabilitate former women inmates and juvenile offenders.

Yemen was also encouraged to prohibit any practice of forced early marriage of young girls, including "tourist" or temporary marriages; to prevent and combat all acts of smuggling children; to finalize legislative measures that determined the minimum age of marriage at 17 as adopted by Yemen’s House of Representatives; to stop the sentencing of children to any form of physical punishment; to abolish corporal punishment; to continue measures to protect disadvantaged children; to take effective measures to ensure effective birth registration; to continue efforts to combat poverty; to enhance education opportunities in rural areas; to continue to improve the health welfare system; to adopt more effective policies and programmes to combat unemployment, particularly among women and youth; to continue to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development for better realization of the Millennium Development Goals; to earmark more resources for social services; and to commit more resources to housing development for low income families.

Other recommendations included: To continue to pursue plans to set up a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles; for the international community to provide assistance to Yemen address its challenges in the area of human rights; to strengthen the implementation of educational and awareness-raising programmes on human rights; to devise a national programme to foster a human rights culture and raise public awareness of human rights in the country; difficulties facing the country in submitting overdue reports to the United Nations Treaty Bodies; to extend a standing invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures; to consider ratifying the individuals complaints procedures to the treaties to which they are a party; for the international community to support the Somali refugees in Yemen; to guarantee the right of the disabled; to continue to put all efforts to prevent the recurrence of threats against religious minorities in Yemen, including Jewish and Baha’i communities; to ratify the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education; and to continue efforts for the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

Additionally, Yemen was encouraged by participating States to restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it can be imposed; to take measures to ensure that the counter terrorism efforts in Yemen were applied in accordance with its human rights obligations; to abolish torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as recommended by International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the relevant Special Procedures; to ratify the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to take measures to end the practice of incommunicado detention; to improve prison conditions; to allow access to prisons and detention centres to Yemeni and international human rights organizations, in particular the ICRC; to raise the age of criminal responsibility; to ensure that the standards to a fair trial were guaranteed under all circumstances; to implement strict judicial measures on corruption and bribery; and to strengthen the capacity of judicial administrators.

States also recommended that Yemen protect and respect the freedom of expression and association of human rights defenders and refrain from placing and restrictions on their work; to disseminate widely and ensure full observance of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; to remove restrictions on the ability of journalists to criticize government policy without fear of intimidation, repression, imprisonment or threat; to take necessary measures to ensure freedom of expression; to combat all acts of violence and harassment against journalists; to amend the Press and Publication Act so that it clearly and unequivocally protected the freedom of expression for journalists; to ensure compliance with obligations with the Convention on the Rights of the Child not to carry out the death penalty on minors; to install a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing the death penalty; to review legislation to ensure it did not discrimination unfavourable against women; to prohibit the sentencing of children to any form of punishment; to ensure that all detainees had access to a lawyer and doctor; and to ensure the freedom persons to choose a religious or belief including the right to change one’s current religion or belief.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Qatar, Canada, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Cuba, France, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Djibouti, China, Jordan, Italy, Nigeria, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Germany, Slovenia, South Africa, Argentina and Senegal.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Israel, Austria, Belarus, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, Iran, Tunisia, Syria, Viet Nam, Venezuela, Denmark, Oman, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Nepal, Libya, Portugal, the United States, Norway, Thailand, Latvia, Sudan, Hungary, Zimbabwe, Somalia the Czech Republic.

· The 21-person delegation of Yemen consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Office of the General Advocate for International Cooperation and protection of Human Rights, the Ministry of the Interior, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Information and the Permanent Mission of Yemen to the UN Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Yemen are Nicaragua, Indonesia and South Africa.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Yemen can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Afghanistan: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Afghanistan are Azerbaijan, the Republic of Korea and Cameroon. Introducing the report ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan), after thanking the State under review, the troika and the Secretariat for drafting the report, noted that the report would be adopted on the understanding that the duplicated wording would be deleted so as to accommodate the word limit to the document. Representing the State under review, MOHAMMAD QASIM HASHIMZAI, Deputy Minister of Justice of Afghanistan, said the recommendations reflected in the report truly helped the delegation of Afghanistan the most of which enjoyed the support of Afghanistan. He noted that human rights violations were rampant during the time of war and human rights institutions were now working full time to correct these ills. Afghanistan promised the international community that it would reach all human rights targets. Thanks to the UPR process, Afghanistan now has the inspiration it needs to meet its human rights challenges.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Yemen on Wednesday, 13 May.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work on tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Vanuatu after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Chile.

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