[JURIST] Yemeni officials called on their parliament [official website, in Arabic] Monday to strengthen security and gun-control laws in an effort to end unrest and kidnappings and to improve the country's economy. Citing concerns with national unity, tourism and economic strains, Deputy Prime Minister Rshad al-Alimi urged the parliament [Reuters report] to criminalize unlicensed weapons and the public bearing of arms as well as limit the number of bodyguards allowed and increase penalties for kidnappers and armed attackers. The Yemeni House of Representatives on Monday considered these laws [press release, in Arabic] and others in an effort to improve economic and social development. The discussion of the new laws was prompted by a recent increase in al Qaeda attacks, rebellion by northern Shi'ite Muslims, and kidnappings of Western tourists and workers for government ransom.
Northern rebels have been the cause of much Yemeni unrest. In June, Yemen sentenced [JURIST report] 14 accused Zayidi Shi'ite rebels, among them outspoken Yemeni journalist Abdel Karim al-Khaywani [advocacy profile], for their roles in an ongoing Shi'ite uprising. All but one of those arrested received prison sentences of up to ten years, with the last rebel receiving the death sentence for plotting attacks on Yemeni military bases. Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] alleged that Yemeni security forces had unlawfully detained hundreds of individuals [JURIST report] since 2004 as part of its campaign against the rebels, finding that government forces arrested innocent individuals in order to pressure families to surrender and to silence journalists.