Human Rights and Democracy Report 2015 - Human Rights Priority Country update report: July to December 2016 - Yemen

The human rights situation in Yemen has remained poor in the second half of 2016 against a backdrop of continuing conflict. A broad range of human rights abuses occurred including: the use of child soldiers; attacks on journalists and human rights defenders; intimidation of humanitarian workers; and arbitrary detentions. In the context of the current conflict, the capacity of the legitimate Yemeni authority and civil society to protect human rights remains a challenge. The UK continues to play a leading role in working with parties to the conflict to find a political solution and bring long-term stability to Yemen.

Recognising the deteriorating human rights situation, the UK helped to negotiate and agreed a UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution which was adopted at the meeting of the HRC in September 2016. The resolution called on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to provide technical assistance to the Yemeni National Independent Commission of Inquiry. The Commission is scheduled to report back to the HRC in September 2017. It is vital that the international community continues to support efforts to improve the human rights situation in Yemen. We engage with the Yemeni government and regional countries that are party to the conflict on the importance of ensuring that human rights are respected in Yemen.

The protection of human rights of children in Yemen remains a significant area of concern. There has been significant disruption to education with UNICEF reporting that over 2 million children are now out of school. It is estimated that 1,604 schools are currently unfit for use due to damage, presence of internally displaced persons or occupation by armed groups. The Secretary of State for International Development announced at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September that the recently established Education Cannot Wait fund (to which the UK is the largest global donor) has committed $15 million to education efforts in Yemen. This funding will help to provide education opportunities for out of school children in Yemen as well as building government and local community capacity to provide education in emergencies. We continue to condemn the use of Child Soldiers in the Yemen conflict. We are highly concerned that the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict has verified over 500 cases of child soldiers by the Houthis and we support the UN’s lobbying of the Houthis to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The protection of human rights of women in Yemen remains a significant area of focus and the World Economic Forum rated Yemen as bottom of its Global Gender Gap Index (out of 144 countries). The UK is supporting a project with UN Women which aims to increase women’s access to and participation in the peace process, and encourage political actors to take into account women’s views. Following lobbying by the UK and other international partners, the government of Yemen appointed two women to the delegation for peace talks that began in April, whilst the Houthi/Saleh GPC delegation had one woman.

The UN Population Fund has reported widespread abuse of Women’s rights in Yemen including:

In 2016, Department for International Development (DFID) funding helped to treat over 500 pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition and supported antenatal and postnatal clinics attended by almost 1500 pregnant and lactating women.

There continue to be reports that the Houthis and forces loyal to ex-president Saleh have arbitrarily arrested, detained and abducted government supporters, journalists and members of religious minorities including the Baha’i faith. Amnesty International has reported that in some cases detainees have been tortured, courts have passed down death sentences and executions have been carried out. There have also been concerning reports of Houthi gunmen storming offices of media outlets and intimidating journalists in efforts to curtail press freedoms.

Yemen continues to be a destination and transit country for many asylum-seekers and migrants, predominantly from Somalia and Ethiopia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 110,000 asylum-seekers and migrants arrived in Yemen in 2016, the highest number since recording began in 2006.There are around 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Yemen. As of October 2016, there are 2.2 million internally displaced persons the majority of whom are sheltering in Taizz, Hajjah and Sana’a. The conflict has significantly reduced capacity to support asylum-seekers and refugees entering Yemen. The UN has highlighted that asylum seekers face significant protection risks and often lack access to civil status documentation which curtails their movement and access to livelihoods.