[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday criticized [report, PDF; press release] methods used by the government of Yemen [JURIST news archive] in counter-terror operations as violations of human rights. In a report, “Yemen: Cracking Down Under Pressure,” the rights group accused the government of perpetrating numerous human right abuses in attempting to quell the rebel movements of the Zaidi Shi’a [Al Jazeera backgrounder] in the north and the Southern Movement, in addition to its US-sponsored actions against al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder]. These alleged abuses include arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, among other actions taken by security forces. These forces, according to AI, are accountable only to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh [BBC profile]. The report also cited the rising number of executions [JURIST news archive] in the country after convictions for links to al Qaeda or the rebel movements. AI also pointed to the actions of the US and Saudi Arabia in promoting these actions by Yemeni authorities following the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [JURIST news archive] in December. According to AI, international pressure following this incident, in which al Qaeda operatives in Yemen are believed to have been involved, has caused the government to abandon progress in human rights:
An extremely worrying trend has developed where the Yemeni authorities, under pressure from the USA and others to fight al-Qa’ida, and Saudi Arabia to deal with the [Zaidi], have been citing national security as a pretext to deal with opposition and stifle all criticism. All measures taken in the name of countering terrorism or other security challenges in Yemen must have at its heart the protection of human rights. The Yemeni authorities have a duty to ensure public safety and to bring to justice those engaged in attacks that deliberately target members of the public, but when doing so they must abide by international law. Enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial executions are never permissible, and the Yemeni authorities must immediately cease these violations.
AI went on to criticize the role of the special counter-terrorism courts that have been used by Yemeni authorities to convict journalists and opposition figures critical of the government. The report called for an end to these abuses, for an investigation into alleged abuses and for the international community to pressure the Yemeni government to respect human rights.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused Yemeni security officials of unlawfully and arbitrarily detaining hundreds of individuals [JURIST report] as part of its campaign against the Zaidi rebels since 2004. The report found that government security forces sometimes unlawfully arrested individuals who have committed no crime to pressure a wanted family member to surrender, silence journalists, or to put pressure on human rights activists. HRW urged the Yemeni government to establish an independent commission with full authority to investigate the alleged disappearances and unlawful arrests, and prosecute officials and members of security forces involved in the illegal acts. The Yemeni government has been fighting the Zaidi rebels since 2004, the movement seeks to revive the influence of Zaidi Hashemites imams, which had been previously heavily involved in government in northern Yemen until 1962.