Middle East

Yemen 'abandoning human rights' in battle for security

Soldiers in Harf Sufian district in the northern Yemeni province of Amran
Image caption Yemen is accused of increasingly sacrificing human rights for security

Yemen has been accused by Amnesty International of abandoning human rights in the name of security.

The human rights group has documented what it says is a series of violations, including unlawful killings of those suspected of having links to al-Qaeda.

It also says the Yemeni government has ignored human rights as it tackles a breakaway movement in the south and Shia rebels in the north.

Authorities in Sanaa say they are doing all they can to protect civilians.

Yemen, the poorest Arab country, is struggling to deal with multiple threats.

As well as fighting al-Qaeda, the central government is trying to quell armed Shia rebels, known as the Huthis, in the north, and a southern separatist movement.

'Sacrificing human rights'

But according to an Amnesty report released on Tuesday, Yemen has carried out torture and arbitrary detentions.

The report says Yemen has also held unfair trials, using security concerns as a justification.

And it says there have been forced disappearances of people including journalists, dissenters and human rights campaigners.

The pressure group said: "The Yemeni authorities must stop sacrificing human rights in the name of security as they confront threats from al-Qaeda, Zaidi Shiite [Huthi] rebels in the north and address growing demands for secession in the south."

In a statement, Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "All measures taken in the name of countering terrorism or other security challenges in Yemen must have at (their) heart the protection of human rights."

Amnesty further alleges that a worrying trend has emerged, where security is cited as a pretext to deal with opposition and stifle criticism.

And the rights group says not enough effort is made by security forces to detain suspects before killing them.

It alleges that when missiles were used against a southern village last December, more than 40 people were killed - mostly women and children.

Yemen has recently come under added international pressure to act decisively. The United States and Saudi Arabia are providing the government with aid and support.

The authorities in Sanaa say they are doing what they can to protect innocent civilians, vital state institutions and foreign interests.

Yemen has become the new centre of gravity for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, following the January 2009 merger of al-Qaeda in Yemen and al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.

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