Yemen: operational update, August 2005
31-08-2005 Operational Update
Overview of ICRC activities, present and past, including detention visits, assistance, family links, orthopaedic and promotion of humanitarian law.
Between January and August 2005 the ICRC:
- carried out joint action with the Yemeni Red Crescent to respond to humanitarian needs in areas affected by armed confrontations in northern Yemen;
- restored contact between families in Yemen and relatives detained/interned abroad and between foreigners in Yemen (mainly refugees or asylum seekers) and family members in their home countries;
- issued certificates of detention to former detainees seeking refugee status in Yemen and facilitated family reunions in third countries;
- sponsored vocational and literacy training, as well as medical care, for imprisoned women, in cooperation with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society;
- assisted physical rehabilitation centres caring for the disabled;
- pursued efforts to integrate IHL into national legislation, the national education system and the teaching and training programmes of the Yemeni armed forces.
Renewed clashes between government forces and followers of Sheikh Hussain Badreddin al-Houthi, a cleric accused of sedition and rebellion, flared up in the northern province of Saada at the end of March 2005. The province had been the scene of similar armed confrontations in mid-2004.
Several trials involving alleged Al-Qaeda members started or ended in the first half of 2005 as Yemen pursued its clampdown on suspected Islamist extremism.
A steady flow of refugees continued to enter Yemen, mostly from Somalia and other conflict-ridden countries in the Horn of Africa.
In Yemen, the ICRC worked to resume detention visits with a particular focus on people held in relation to the " fight against terrorism " and the recurrent armed confrontations in northern parts of the country. Assistance programmes were maintained for vulnerable groups of detainees, such as women and the mentally ill, through constant support for the Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS).
The ICRC supports female detainees in order to break their isolation and enhance their reintegration prospects. Under this programme, volunteers of the Yemeni Red Crescent give regular sewing, embroidery and literacy classes to the women in the central prisons of Mahwit, Hodeida and Dhamar.
The ICRC also continued to offer its services to the Yemeni authorities to help identify and respond to emergency humanitarian needs in parts of the country affected by recurrent armed confrontations between government forces and armed groups.
Following a survey at the end of 2004, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society carried out a distribution of water filters to 1,800 households in the northern region of Marran, the scene of armed confrontations between security forces and armed groups in 2004. Construction materials were provided for the repair of some 80 small reservoirs that had been damaged during the fighting.
Relatives at Guantanamo
The ICRC maintained its tracing services to help refugees in Yemen to locate and restore contact with family members in their home countries – mostly in the Horn of Africa. The Red Cross message (RCM) service also enabled Yemeni families to restore ties with relatives held in U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Significant numbers of Yemeni families and Iraqis living in Yemen were also able to locate and re-establish contact with relatives in Iraq through the ICRC tracing unit. Nearly 3,700 Red Cross messages were exchanged in the first half of the year.
ICRC in Yemen - the early years
The ICRC has been active in Yemen since autumn 1962, when armed conflict broke out between republicans and royalists. During years of fighting, ICRC delegates were providing medical assistance, visiting prisoners of war on both sides, and acting as neutral intermediary between them.
In the 1960s, the ICRC opened the first orthopaedic workshop in Sana'a, which it later handed over to the Yemeni authorities.
In South Yemen, the ICRC established its first contacts during the war of independence and had a delegation in Aden from 1967 to 1974.
During the 1980s, ICRC delegates carried out visits to detainees in North and South Yemen. After the Yemeni unification in 1990, the ICRC concluded a new agreement with the Republic of Yemen and opened a delegation in Sana'a in 1994.
The ICRC runs a teaching and training programme at two state-run orthopaedic centres in Sana’a and Mukalla, using ICRC technology and expertise to produce artificial limbs.
Since 2003, ICRC specialists have given on-the-job training to the technicians of the Mukalla orthopaedic centre, which was opened in May 2003, and the Sana’a workshop, which was created by the ICRC in the 1960s. From January to June 2005, the two workshops produced about 90 limbs and and some 350 joints.
The ICRC works with the Yemeni authorities, particularly the National Committee for International Humanitarian Law (NCIHL), parliament and other official bodies on issues concerning the ratification of new humanitarian treaties, and their implementation into Yemeni law. It cooperates with the military and security forces, universities and the ministry of education on the integration of international humanitarian law into the curricula and agenda of their respective training and teaching institutions.
"Exploring Humanitarian Law" , an ICRC teaching programme for secondary school students, is now being tried out in Yemen. The educational authorities have specifically included governorates like Saada, al-Jawf and Mareb, where armed confrontations are rife, in the pilot project.
In their effort to meet and exchange views with civil society, the Yemeni Red Crescent and the ICRC held a seminar in April 2005, the first in its kind in Yemen, on the'Protection of war victims in the Islamic Shari'a and International Humanitarian Law .'It aimed at exploring common factors in both Islamic Law and IHL in terms of respect for the life and dignity of the human being in time of war.