The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Friday announced [text] that it plans to send a panel to investigate the human rights situation in Yemen [OHCHR backgrounder]. Three OHCHR experts will travel to Yemen next week [press release] for a 10-day stint to interview government officials, human rights defenders, victims of rights violations, members of the political opposition, religious leaders and other UN agencies about human rights abuses related to pro-democracy protests. The commission will compile recommendations for Yemeni officials and the international community and publish the report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September.
Rights groups have criticized Yemen for its handling of pro-democracy protests that have persisted since February. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] in April urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate protestor deaths. Just days earlier, the OHCHR urged the Yemeni government [JURIST report] to discontinue using force against peaceful protesters. The Yemeni Parliament enacted several emergency measures [JURIST report] in March at the request of President Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic] in an effort to end anti-government protests. Saleh, who agreed to step down in April [JURIST report], and his party, the General People's Congress (GPC), had caused mounting political tensions due to attempts to remove presidential term limits [JURIST report] and expand their political power. In December, the parliament stoked outrage among opposition parties and independents when it amended the constitution [AFP report] to eliminate provisions requiring that opposition parties be represented on the high election commission. The protests in Yemen have been analyzed in two recent JURIST op-eds: Constitutional Enforcement in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt by L. Ali Khan, Professor of Law at Washburn University, and The Middle East protest movements: each with a story, all with uncertainty by Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies [advocacy website].