Sunday, November 29, 2009


27 November 2009 Index: MDE 31/017/2009
Yemen: Government should announce commitment to tackle ‘widespread’ torture Amnesty International today urged the Yemeni government to publicly announce its commitment to implementing the recommendations issued last week by the UN Committee against Torture, following its regrettable failure earlier this month to show up to the Committee’s examination of what was described as the “widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment” in Yemen. The Committee published on 20 November its provisional conclusions and recommendations on Yemen’s second periodic report concerning the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It had examined the report on 3 November, but, in an unusual development, the Yemeni government did not attend the session. The Yemeni authorities have an opportunity to respond to the conclusions and recommendations before the Committee next meets in April and May 2010. Amnesty International calls on them to do so, but also to implement without delay and as a first step a key recommendation of the Committee that they “announce a policy of eradication of torture and ill-treatment”. Such action would help to signal the authorities’ will – currently being called into question – to deal with one of the major areas of human rights concern in the country. Torture and other ill-treatment are widespread practices in Yemen and are committed, generally with impunity, against both detainees held in connection with politically motivated acts or protests and ordinary criminal suspects. Methods of torture and other ill-treatment are reported to include beatings all over the body with sticks, rifle butts, punching, kicking, prolonged suspension by the wrists or ankles, burning with cigarettes, being stripped naked, denial of food and prompt access to medical help, as well as threats of sexual abuse. Torture and other ill-treatment are often carried out as a means of obtaining “confessions” during interrogation. Such “confessions” are generally accepted by the court without being investigated adequately, if at all. This is despite constitutional guarantees and provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure which prohibit the admissibility of such evidence. Most torture and other ill-treatment take place during the initial period of detention by security forces, when detainees are generally not provided access to a lawyer or to their families. Criminal sanctions which violate the absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman and or degrading treatment or punishment, “such as floggings, beatings and even amputation of limbs, are still prescribed by law and practiced” in Yemen, as the Committee noted with concern. In addition, Amnesty International receives reports of prison authorities resorting to torture and other ill-treatment as a form of non-judicial punishment against political prisoners. Dozens of detainees arrested in May 2009 following a peaceful protest calling for the release of political prisoners held in connection with the Southern Movement, a coalition of political groups seen by the Yemeni government as calling for the independence of the southern part of the country, have reportedly since been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment in the al-Mukalla Central Prison, in the south-east of Yemen. Seven men who were suspected of having led the protest, including one named Salim ‘Ali Bashawayh, had their wrists and ankles handcuffed to fixed bars and were suspended from them for several hours. Others were reportedly tear-gassed, subjected to beatings with sticks, punched and kicked in order to stop them from chanting demands for the independence of the south of the country and for their release from prison. Torture and other ill-treatment are facilitated by what the Committee described as “a widespread practice of mass arrests without a warrant and arbitrary and prolonged detention without charges and judicial process”. In Amnesty International’s experience, detainees are generally not allowed to notify a relative or lawyer of their place of detention, despite the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulating that they should be afforded this right “immediately”. In some cases the authorities deny for weeks that they are holding a detainee in their custody in response to requests from their family for information on their whereabouts. Such cases constitute enforced disappearances. Amnesty International has recorded dozens of such cases over recent years; many have involved individuals arrested in connection with the conflict between the army and followers of Zaidi Shi’a cleric Hussein al-Houthi in Yemen’s northerly Sa’da region, which has been raging intermittently since 2004, or with recent anti-government demonstrations in the south of the country protesting at the perceived discrimination by the authorities against the people of that region. One person who remains disappeared is Muhammad al-Maqalih, a Yemeni journalist and member of the Yemeni Socialist Party who was abducted from a street in the capital Sana’a on 17 September by a group of men who arrived in an unmarked white minibus. There has been no news of Muhammad al-Maqalih since. He is suspected to have been arrested because of his public criticism of the army’s killing of civilians in Sa’da. At first Muhammad al-Maqalih was believed to be detained by the Central Organ of Political Security in Sana’a. However, in October the Attorney General told Muhammad al-Maqalih’s family that the Central Organ of Political Security had denied that he was in their custody. It is now believed that Muhammad al-Maqalih is being detained in the al-Qal’a Prison in Sana’a. Amnesty International wrote to Yemen’s Minister of Defence on 21 October to ask about his place of detention and to raise concerns that he is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, but has received no response to date. To combat such practices, the Yemeni government should follow the announcement of “a policy of eradication of torture and ill-treatment” by implementing without delay a key recommendation of the Committee against Torture to “take immediate steps to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment throughout the country”. As recommended by the Committee, they should, in particular, “ensure that all detainees are afforded, in practice, all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of their detention. These include, in particular, the right to have prompt access to a lawyer and an independent medical examination, to notify a relative, and to be informed of their rights at the time of detention, including about the charges laid against them, as well as to appear before a judge within a time limit in accordance with international standards.” They should also “establish a national system to monitor and inspect all places of detention and follow up on the outcome on such systematic monitoring”. Background The UN Committee against Torture is the expert body established by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to monitor countries’ compliance with that treaty. It is composed of 10 independent, impartial members who are elected by the states parties to the treaty. Governments must submit periodic reports to the Committee which in turn make recommendations to further the State party’s implementation of the treaty. --------------------------------------------------------

Monday, November 09, 2009

Miscalculated Saudi Policy: Peace is Much Cheaper Than War

Miscalculated Saudi Policy
Peace is Much Cheaper Than War

By Hassan Al-Haifi

The last war that Saudi Arabia engaged in independently was the Yemeni – Saudi War of 1934 and it might be worth recalling that it was the King of Yemen then, who appealed to the wisdom of King Abdul-Aziz to end the war on a temporary truce, lest the foreign forces that were prying for power and influence in the region close all the channels for fraternal Arab brothers to make peace. Incidentally in that war, Prince Ahmed Bin Yahya, the Imam’s son and commander of the Yemeni forces had advanced beyond Najran and was already on his way towards cutting the supply lines of Prince Faisal (later King of Saudi Arabia), who had already advanced to near Hodeida. The war would have been a disaster for the Saudis then, because Ahmed was a military genius beyond dispute, as many of his companions have quickly attested. Thus, when Imam Yahya rightly or wrongly called for a truce, it was out of conviction that Arabs should not be fighting Arabs, especially if both were Moslems and surely should not fight wars for the sake of foreign powers. Many of those accompanying Prince Ahmed would be quick to point out that this moment was the first time they saw Prince Ahmed cry, when his father ordered him to retreat back to the agreed truce lines. Ahmed is well known for never having to lose any battles or wars he was engaged in and was unequalled in military genius in his times. He knew well how to handle and lead Yemeni tribesmen and make a formidable force out of them, even if they were meagerly equipped. He was so confident that the Saudis were easy game then and was ready to march to Taef City after cutting the lines of supply to Faisal. King Abdul- Aziz knew this well and saw good wisdom in agreeing to the truce suggested by Imam Yahya. Whatever the case, any war between the brotherly nations of Yemen and Saudi Arabia is never good for any of the adversaries involved. Thus, it was with surprise and total disagreement that this observer finds it nec3essary to suggest to our Saudi brothers that if the Egyptians with a force of 70,000 troops could not break the back of the resistance they met in Sa’ada during the war to save the Republic (1962 – 1969), how can they expect to do better, when the force they are confronting is far more resolute and apparently well adapted to durable combat. The Saudis are also causing much more anger to reside within the hearts and minds of many Yemenis, who really expected that their Saudi brothers would look with greater affinity towards their southern brothers and invest in the development of the country, so that Yemenis will be less contemptuous (not jealous, mind you) of their Saudi brothers for enjoying the lavish splendor they are living under, while turning the other way when they realize how destitute are the lives of their southern brothers. One surely does not think that the counsel that the Saudis are getting to carry out a meaningless and surely fruitless war against any Yemeni faction is actually counterproductive and not in the interests of the Saudi family at all. Never mind that the Saudis will only enflame the anger of Yemenis, who are already saddened by the ungrateful attitude of the Saudis towards the Yemenis, who played a major role in the building of modern Saudi Arabia during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The recent fighting in the Yemeni – Saudi border, even if it has the blessings of the Saleh regime, is absolutely contrary to the interests of both the Yemeni and Saudi people, and surely counterproductive, as far as the Saudi regime is concerned. The Saudis are not only arousing the anger of the majority of Yemeni citizens, but causing great disfavor among most of the Arab people, who will tend to view the battle north of Sa’ada as a David – versus Goliath encounter. With the Houthis regarded as the David in this battle and with the Saudis not looked upon very favorably already in most of the Arab streets, for many reasons, which one would not like to delve in now, the observer believes that it is time to let wisdom prevail in determining the course of Saudi policy towards their brothers in the South. Fired up emotions and misguided arithmetic are not the ways to handle relations with neighbors, who have been tested many times in battle and the support of the regime in Sana’a to Saudi intervention may have its own undesirable outcomes from the Saudi viewpoint as time will soon show.
On the other hand, instead of wasting countless billions of Riyals in a seemingly unwinnable war, the Saudis could consider investing a quarter of the money to be wasted on the development of their southern neighbor, who God has left under the hands of a government that has for all practical purposes missed out on the performance of the Social Contract to which they have been committed to for well over a quarter of a century. One important question remains to be answered: Should the regime in Sana’a compromise the sovereignty of Yemen because it could not overcome what began as a minor security issue and eventually turned into a full scale rebellion, because of the way the regime confronted the Houthis at the start of the conflict up to these trying moments?

Yemen Times Issue 1310
November 9, 2009

Iran and Turkey (And Maybe Pakistan, Malaysia, etc.):
Maybe the Beginning of a New Era for the Moslem World

One of the most phenomenal characteristics of Islam is that it is indeed a universal message and its adherents have an understandably strong affinity (a feeling of fraternal association) towards each other that is perhaps unequalled by any other form of religious human cohesiveness. An English historian (and politician) once remarked that one of the most peculiar things about Islam is that it could go down to the bottom of the pit in terms of taking on a respectable prominence in this world. However, and all of a sudden, one is bound to see the Moslem World rebound back into a robust and powerful culture that takes on the banner of Islam to new heights of cultural and economic progress. This would be in addition to a healthy and viable display of an international movement that has a strong influence in the affairs of humankind in all spheres of human development. Unfortunately many people, who have never taken a close and objective look at Islam tend to view Islam as merely being a religious movement that is prone to violence, materialist plunder and voluptuous harems as Hollywood and many misinformed or prejudiced historians or chroniclers tend to picture this most dynamic of all spiritual inclinations. One is not interested in delving into the background causes of the current pitiful state of the Moslem World, while not ignoring that Moslems are not entirely free from any responsibility for the sorry state the Nation of Islam is in. On the latter, it is pathetically sad that many Moslems, as individuals as well as states, have forgotten that they themselves are actually causing great harm to their nation, either by outright acquiescence to foreign powers or out of their poor comprehension of the expectations that come with belonging to the universal Nation of Islam. Mainstream Moslems of the world have become appalled by the behavior of the many Moslem (and especially Arab Governments) as the latter worked diligently to kill the institutionalization of mainstream Islam in all its sectoral manifestations. They also fail to understand why many Moslem leaders actually seek to distance their constituencies from a proper understanding of their own faith. They either have introduced horrendous distortions of the religious principles that have always put Islam in the forefront of modern theological and dogmatic human attachments. They are of course not doing this for any misunderstanding of their religion. They are quite aware that had they are vulnerable if their constituencies were to enjoy the appropriate civil liberties and human rights now deemed standard of all modern progressive nations. One should not be misled by the Taliban or Wahhabi renditions, which have tended erroneously to capture media attention, more because of their bizarre heresies and misinterpretation of the very progressive social implications of the message delivered by the Prophet Mohammed (PABAUH)[1] some fourteen hundred years ago. Notwithstanding the lip service most current Moslem Governments try to project to show their attachment to the religion of Islam, the truth of the matter is that their application of Moslem teachings, on the social front leave a lot to be desired.
The current display of strong Moslem states like Iran, Turkey, Malaysia and belatedly Pakistan of efforts to bring back the Moslem World to its rightful place in guiding this world to a better climate of human cohesion and international justice and equal opportunities for all inhabitants of this planet (as well as non-Moslems) is very inspiring and healthy indeed. The observer could not escape from noticing that there are indications that all hope is not lost for the Moslems of the world and the rest of humanity, who have been left out of the vast progress that has been made in most of the significant fields that can bring greater well being and prosperity to all people of the world.
It is understandable why Turkey should do the only possible thing to save its face and keep its international stature, especially with the leading players in the European Union simply not finding it acceptable for Turkey to be regarded as one of their peers. The former have sought to put every obstacle to keep Turkey from joining this agglomeration of modern nations and now Turkey rightfully turned to the Moslem World for a better chance at expanding its economic and political prospects. The experience of Turkey as the leader of the Moslem World and holder of the Caliphate for four hundred years would certainly enrich the prospects for all the Moslem World to come out of their subservience to the Western masters of their governments. To follow a greater course of independence would certainly be welcome by most Moslems of the world and sooner or later, most Moslem constituencies would get on the bandwagon. Iran has shown that it can be done and no matter what obstacles and hindrances a Moslem nation faces, as it seeks to become set on a proper course of development, as long as one plays by the book, the barriers can easily be overcome.
For sure this is causing great worry in Israel, but then again so what?
[1] Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him

Yemen Times Issue 1308
November 2, 2009