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Report reveals human rights abuses in Yemeni prisons (Front).

SANA'A -- Hodeida jails house large-scale human rights abuses, including rape, illegal detentions, overcrowding and shortages of food and water, according to a new report prepared by the National Forum for Human Rights.

The worst abuses take place when male guards are in charge of women, said Abdulhafidh Mu'jab, who prepared the report after a team of nine lawyers toured Hodeida detention centers.

"Women located in these unsafe places encourages violations or rapes," he said.

And many women in Hodeida are detained before trial longer than is legal or humane, in facilities that are inadequate for female prisoners, he added.

"They should work on procedures to release women from prison and makes these procedures as fast as possible," Mu'jab said.

According to Khalid Ayash, who heads the organization, women do not to report sexual assaults in jails because they fear the severe social stigma associated with rape in Yemen.

International human rights groups say women who report rape in Yemen have more to fear than social stigma. Rape victims are sometimes accused of and prosecuted for adultery, a crime that is punishable by stoning to death, according to Human Rights Watch.

Sex between unmarried people is punishable by 100 lashes and up to a year in prison, according to Yemeni criminal law.

Rape victims also fear violence at the hands of relatives who are shamed by their wives' or daughters' compromised chastity.

"Women do not dare talk," said Ayash.

He said families of victims send him complaints, but it is currently impossible to guess how many women have been raped in Hodeida jails.

Hodeida conditions inadequate

None of the jails in Hodeida have proper facilities for women, according to the report. In the Hais district, for instance, women are held among male officers in a room inside the police station.

In Zabeed, a single room, large enough for 10 people, and one bathroom house female detainees near the police administration offices where men work.

The lawyers that created the report also saw women housed in rooms within men's facilities in Beit Al-Faqih and Bajel. Some jails, according to the report, were not government facilities, but houses rented to detain prisoners.

"Female prisoners need special care because they are in a society that says they are shameful if they coexist with men," the report reads.

Rights abuses in detention centers are also not limited to female detainees in Hodeida, according to the report.

One prisoner in the Hais district told the lawyers that prisoners were not supplied with food or mattresses, and families were forced to provide meals to incarcerated relatives. The prisoner also complained of water shortages and filth.

In Zabeed, prisoners complained of overcrowding, food shortages, and lack of electricity. One prisoner said she was detained for four months before her case was examined, according to the report.

In Bajel, prisoners were not allowed to see their lawyers, and reported a shortage of water, bathroom services and electricity.

Problem nationwide

Squalor is not exclusive to Hodeida detention centers, according to other Yemeni human rights activists.

Yemeni MP and Human Rights Committee member Ahmed Saif Hashed told the Global Politician in 2007 that detention centers across the country are grossly overcrowded, unhealthy and dangerous.

"It pains me to find security apparatuses practice torture, attacks and the worst kinds of mistreatments in the prisons and custody centers," he said.

Prisoners also suffer from food shortages, medical care and sanitation and are victims of beatings, torture, sexual abuse and detentions without charges, he said.

Children also suffer rape and torture at the hands of authorities in the prison system, he told the Global Politician. A Ministry of Interior report said more than three quarters of incarcerated children under 15 years old had never been charged, according to the Global Politician.

"Sorrowfully, many acts and crimes are committed against children in Yemen," he added.

The Ministry of Human Rights also reported poor conditions in Yemeni detention centers, and problems within the judicial system that lead to extended detentions without charges, and arrests of people as proxies for relatives accused of committing crimes.

The Minister of Human Rights, Huda Al-Ban, visited prisons in Aden, Taiz, Abyan, Lahj, Ibb and Sana'a between June and July in 2007.

From the Central Prison in Sana'a, she reported a lack of clean, healthy food, especially for pregnant women, children locked up with adults, and prisoners locked up by local leaders not authorized to make arrests, according to subsequent Yemen Times reports.

Also common were prisoners who had served their sentence, but could not pay the fines the judges ordered as part of their punishments. During the visits, the ministry paid the debts of almost 100 prisoners who were then released, according to a Yemen Times report.

As a result of these findings and human rights conferences, the Ministry of Human Rights is planning a nationwide effort to identify abuses within the criminal justice system, according to Abdulkareem Ahmed Al-Wazzan, the General Director for International Organizations and Reports.

Judges, police, prisoners and prison officials will be asked to provide details about the problems and needs of the system. Al-Wazzan said this information will be presented at an international conference early next year.

"Any violation of any rights is a crime that should be punished," he added.

Detailed information about the needs of Yemen's criminal justice system will encourage the international community to contribute much-needed funds to the project, he said....

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Aug 30, 2009
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