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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | Legal Profession | Yemeni Unification
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Republic of Yemen, comprising the former (northern) Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and (southern) People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), was proclaimed in 1990. Following a brief but bloody civil war in mid-1994, the country was reunified under the Sana'a-based government. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is the leader of the General People's Congress (GPC), which dominates the Government. He was elected by the legislature to a 5-year term in 1994, and was elected to another 5-year term in the country's first nationwide direct presidential election in September 1999, winning 96.3 percent of the vote. The Constitution provides that the President be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by Parliament.

In November 1989, the leaders of the YAR (Ali Abdallah Salih) and the PDRY (Ali Salim Al-Bidh) agreed on a draft unity constitution originally drawn up in 1981. The Republic of Yemen (ROY) was declared on May 22, 1990. Ali Abdallah Salih became President and Ali Salim Al-Bidh became Vice President.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

Yemen's judiciary has five types of courts: Criminal; civil and personal status (for example, divorce and inheritance); kidnaping/terrorism; commercial; and court-martial. All laws are codified from Shari'a, under which there are no jury trials. Criminal cases are adjudicated by a judge, who plays an active role in questioning witnesses and the accused. Under the Constitution and by law, the Government must provide attorneys for indigent defendants; however, in practice this never occurs. Despite a stipulation that the Government provide legal aid to indigent defendants, the law does not explicitly prohibit trying criminal defendants without a lawyer, and the judicial budget currently does not allow for defense attorneys. Judges at times "appoint" attorneys present in their courtrooms to represent indigent defendants; however, such attorneys legally are not required to take the case, although most accept in order to avoid displeasing judges before whom they must appear later.

In addition to regular courts, the law permits a system of tribal adjudication for noncriminal issues, although in practice tribal "judges" often adjudicate criminal cases as well. The results of such mediation carry the same if not greater weight as court judgments. Persons jailed under the tribal system usually are not charged formally with a crime but stand publicly accused of their transgression.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Yemeni Government generally respected its citizens' human rights in some areas and continued to improve its human rights performance in 2001; however, its record was poor in several other areas, and serious problems remain. There are significant limitations on citizens' ability to change their government. Members of the security forces killed a number of persons during the year. Members of the security forces tortured and otherwise abused persons, and continued to arrest and detain citizens arbitrarily, especially oppositionists in the south and other persons regarded as "secessionists." Directives intended to align the country's arrest, interrogation, and detention procedures more closely with internationally accepted standards generally were implemented during the year. Prison conditions were poor, and some detainees were held in private prisons not authorized by the Government. However, during the year, the Government conducted prison inspections, released prisoners being held after their sentences had been completed, and cooperated with international nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) to study and improve conditions for female prisoners. PSO officers have broad discretion over perceived national security issues. Despite constitutional constraints, security officers routinely monitor citizens' activities, search their homes, detain citizens for questioning, and mistreat detainees. The Government usually failed to hold members of the security forces accountable for abuses; however, there were two convictions of security officials for abuses in late 2000. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process. The Government continued to implement a comprehensive long-term program for judicial reform. The law limited freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government continued to harass, intimidate, and detain journalists. Journalists practiced self-censorship. The Government at times limited freedom of assembly. The Government imposed some restrictions on freedom of religion, and placed some limits on freedom of movement. The Government adopted measures to decentralize government authority by establishing locally elected governorate and district councils; the first elections to the councils were held in February. The new Minister of State for Human Rights was the country's first female minister. The Government displayed official receptiveness to and support for donor-funded democracy and human rights programs, and in April created a new human rights ministerial portfolio. Violence and discrimination against women were problems. Female genital mutilation (FGM) was practiced on a limited scale, primarily along the coastal areas of the Red Sea. The Government publicly discouraged FGM, and in January the cabinet issued a decree making it illegal for public or private health service practitioners to perform it. There was some discrimination against persons with disabilities and against religious, racial, and ethnic minorities. The Government influences labor unions. Child labor was a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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