Joint Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review - 32nd Session of the UPR Working Group
1.1 CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has members in more than 170 countries.
1.2 The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is an independent, non-profit CSO founded in April 2011. GCHR provides support and protection to human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries in order to promote human rights, including the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
1.3 Front Line Defenders is an international CSO based in Ireland. Formed in 2001, Frontline Defenders has particular expertise in the security and protection of HRDs and works to promote the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (UN Declaration on HRDs) adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998.
1.4 In this submission, CIVICUS, GCHR and Front Line Defenders examine the Government of Yemen’s compliance with its international human rights obligations to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society. Specifically, we analyse Yemen’s fulfilment of the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and unwarranted restrictions on HRDs, since its previous UPR examination in January 2014. To this end, we assess Yemen’s implementation of recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle relating to these issues and provide a number of specific, action-orientated follow-up recommendations.
1.5 During the 2nd UPR cycle of the UPR of Yemen on 29 January 2014, the Government of Yemen received a total of 316 recommendations. The government accepted 39 recommendations related to civic space. However, an evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation set out in this submission demonstrates that the government has not fully implemented all recommendations relating to civil society space. Indeed, the government has not fully implemented any of the 316 recommendations it accepted.
1.6 Following a political crisis and a series of protests in 2011, Yemen was plunged into conflict in 2014 when Houthi fighters overran most regions of the country after capturing the capital Sana’a. The conflict intensified in 2015 as a coalition comprised of nine countries, led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the USA, launched attacks to push back the Houthi incursion. Local fighters also receive support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). All parties to the conflict are guilty of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The country is now controlled by different armed groups, including Houthi fighters, Yemeni security forces and groups loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The violence is exacerbated by regular indiscriminate attacks launched by the US-backed Saudi Arabia coalition and the UAE. Houthis also regularly fire artillery into Yemeni cities. A combination of these attacks has led to the deaths of thousands of people. Thousands more have been wounded and millions displaced. As a consequence, the environment for civil society in Yemen is one of the most dangerous in the world.
1.7 We are alarmed by the extreme violence against HRDs and journalists, and the ongoing restrictions on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. HRDs and journalists are regularly abducted, kidnapped and detained in undisclosed locations. They are often subjected to smear campaigns, threats and judicial persecution, and the perpetrators typically enjoy absolute impunity. Many HRDs, journalists and representatives of civil society who are detained are tortured. The violence has created a political and security vacuum that has enabled different armed factions to threaten CSOs and the media to try to get them to release reports that support their cause. Several CSOs have been raided by these armed factions and had their staff detained and their family members threatened. The raids and attacks on CSOs have forced many to reduce their activities drastically and several have closed down entirely.
1.8 As a result of these restrictions and the violence, civic space in Yemen is currently rated as ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating a widespread and systematic denial of fundamental freedoms.
This submission contains the following sections:
- Section 1 introduces the submission and provides a summary background of Yemen.
- Section 2 of this submission examines Yemen’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards related to the protection of HRDs and civil society activists.
- Section 3 examines Yemen’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards concerning the freedom of expression, independence of the media and the protection of journalists.
- Section 4 examines Yemen’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards related to the freedom of peaceful assembly.
- Section 5 of this submission examines Yemen’s implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards concerning the freedom of association.
- Section 6 contains a number of recommendations to address the concerns raised under the 2nd cycle and to advance the implementation of its recommendations.
- An annex covers the implementation of 2nd cycle UPR recommendations related to civic space.
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