[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] on Monday that traffickers in Yemen [HRW backgrounder] are holding African migrants in detention camps and using torture as a method of extorting money from their families with the cooperation of local officials. The report, entitled "'Yemen's Torture Camps': Abuse of Migrants by Human Traffickers in a Climate of Immunity," [report, PDF] calls for the Yemeni government to investigate and prosecute those involved. According to HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director Eric Goldstein [official profile], it is clear the authorities are looking the other way when faced with human trafficking. Many migrants are openly loaded into trucks [HRW report] in the border town of Haradh, and the human traffickers are met with little government inference. Others are picked up as they arrive on the coast by boat or are "bought" from security officers at checkpoints. Yemen's parliament is scheduled to debate on an anti-trafficking bill in the coming weeks that could create more protection for migrants as well as make it easier to prosecute their abusers. The law may also allow the government to become more capable of preventing human trafficking at its borders, according to HRW. Despite official acknowledgement that the camps exist and are functioning, raids by security forces have been discontinued as they were unable to provide the released migrants with food and shelter, and HRW has found no indication of serious charges brought in criminal court other than a single botched attempt by a prosecutor in Haradh.
The UN and other advocacy organizations have repeatedly urged the Yemeni government to investigate possible human rights violations and to reform the country's laws in accordance with international human rights standards. In February UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] condemned attacks [JURIST report] in Al Dhale Governorate by Yemeni armed forces, which disproportionately affected civilians. Last year HRW called on Yemen's National Dialogue Conference (NDC) [official website] to endorse proposed legislation that would strike down a 2012 law providing blanket immunity [JURIST reports] to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The new legislation would allow Saleh to be prosecuted for any crime, including any human rights violations. HRW called on [JURIST report] the NDC in September of last year to incorporate stronger protections for women's rights into its new constitution. Earlier that year HRW urged [JURIST report] the government to stop seeking and enforcing the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The group accused the Yemeni government, which has the fifth highest number of executions in the world, of executing at least 15 individuals since 2007 for crimes committed while under the age of 18. HRW also criticized [JURIST report] Yemeni authorities for failing to investigate top officials for the shooting deaths of 45 anti-government demonstrators who were killed in March 2011.