Over 90 Yemenis continued to be held by the US authorities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The body of one, Muhammad Ahmad Abdullah Saleh, was returned to Yemen for burial following his death at the prison in June. Salim Hamdan, who was detained following his return to Yemen in November 2008, was released in January. Six Yemenis returned to Yemen in December were detained for several days before being released without charge. Media reports suggested that the US authorities planned to send all or most of the remaining Yemeni detainees for "rehabilitation" in Saudi Arabia, apparently against the wishes of the Yemeni government.
Freedom of expression - the media
The government increased controls over the media. In May it established a court to try cases related to the media. The authorities also confiscated newspapers, denied some access to state-owned printing facilities and, in the case of al-Ayyam, one of the largest circulation daily newspapers, sent in troops to prevent it publishing in May and besieged its offices in Aden.
Discrimination and violence against women and girls
In March, the government amended the nationality law to enable Yemeni women married to foreign men to pass on their nationality to their children. However, women continued to face discrimination under the law and in practice. They were also subjected to early and forced marriage and, it was believed, suffered high levels of violence within the family. Maternal mortality rates remained significantly higher than in most other countries in the region. In February, parliament approved a draft law to raise the marriage age for girls to 17, but it had not been enacted by the end of the year.
- Twelve-year-old Fauzia al-'Amudi died in September while giving birth. She had been married when aged 11 to a 24-year-old man, and was in labour for almost two days before she could reach the nearest hospital, almost 100km away.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The authorities continued to afford protection to thousands of Somalis. At least 77,000 people were reported by UNHCR in December to have entered Yemen since January, mostly after making the perilous journey across the Red Sea. Others were believed to have drowned while attempting the crossing. The authorities detained and forcibly returned nationals of other countries, however, without allowing them access to asylum procedures.
- 'Ali 'Abdullah al-Harbi and four other Saudi Arabian nationals were forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia in April without being given access to asylum procedures or any means to contest their deportations. The five were reportedly suspected supporters of al-Qa'ida and were at risk of serious human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
At least 53 people were sentenced to death and at least 30 prisoners were executed. Hundreds of people were believed to be on death row. More than 70 were under sentence of death in Ta'iz Central Prison alone.