When home is no longer safe: Reporting human rights abuses in Yemen
10 Dec 2015 by Dina El-Mamoun, Chief Technical Advisor, Support to Human Rights Project, UNDP Yemen
"So close to dying”. This is how Hanan describes what happened earlier this year, when forces surrounded and stormed her home in Khur Maksar District, Aden, where she lived with her husband, 4-year-old child and niece, aged 16.
Later Hanan and her family fled their home due to shelling and because of gas, electricity and water shortages. In this sense, their suffering is typical of stories told by Yemenis throughout the country who describe human rights violations at the hands of the parties to the conflict, which began in March 2015
More than 2,600 civilians have been killed and more than 5,200 wounded since March, according to October figures from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Many civilians fear for their lives on a daily basis. Some 2.3 million are internally displaced, and 170 000 have fled to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and some Gulf countries.
Many Yemenis I have spoken to are pinning their hopes on the UN brokered negotiations, which are due to commence on 15 December. One Yemeni activist told me yesterday: “We fear the worst if these negotiations do not succeed in reaching an agreement.”
This year Human Rights Day has special significance in Yemen. It comes at a time when people are holding out hope for what the negotiations will bring, but equally are full of apprehension for what the future may hold.
Their state of mind mirrors the words from a famous Arabic poem: Oh day of celebration, what do you bring with you this year?
The question that we ask as human rights workers is what can we do in response to such devastating human rights situations, the likes of which Yemen has not witnessed in living memory? On top of the terrible loss of life, the war is having a shattering psychological effect on its citizens.
The answer we reached is that it is incredibly important to document and report on human rights violations and abuses: a) as a protection mechanism, b) to ensure and aid future accountability efforts, and c) so victims can find relative peace and move on with their lives.
In October, UNDP Yemen together with UN WOMEN and OHCHR started training Yemeni civil society organizations to independently document human rights violations and provide psychosocial support to victims of the ongoing conflict.
A total of 130 researchers and members of non-governmental organizations across the country are currently being trained, building their skills and knowledge on how to document and report human rights violations in line with international standards.
The initiative is part of the international humanitarian response in Yemen. And it is just one of the ways UNDP has been boosting support to human rights and transitional justice around the world.
Through our long-standing presence in Yemen, we are committed to supporting people like Hanan by working with communities, based on the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.