Head of state: ‘Ali Abdullah Saleh
Head of government: Ali Mohammed Mujawar
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 24.3 million
Life expectancy: 63.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 84/73 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 60.9 per cent
Human rights were subordinated to security challenges posed by al-Qa'ida as well as by armed conflict in the northern Sa'dah province and protests in the south. Thousands of people were detained. Most were released quickly, but many were held for prolonged periods. Some were held incommunicado for months and were victims of enforced disappearance. Some received unfair trials before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) and were sentenced to death or prison terms. Many detainees said they were tortured. The sixth round of fighting in the Sa'dah conflict, which ended in February, involved heavy military bombardments, including by Saudi Arabian forces, and led to hundreds of deaths, widespread destruction and mass flight of civilians. Government repression increased in the face of continuing protests in the south against perceived discrimination by the northern-based government; security forces used excessive force against some demonstrations and several people were killed in targeted attacks. The media faced repressive laws and practices; several journalists were prisoners of conscience. Women continued to face discrimination and violence. Yemen continued to afford protection to many refugees and asylum-seekers from the Horn of Africa, but moved to end the automatic recognition of Somalis. At least 27 people were sentenced to death and 53 executed.
Several provinces were effectively outside the control of the government. In some areas, the risk of kidnapping remained high. Two German girls taken hostage with seven other foreign nationals in Sa'dah province in June 2009 were freed by Saudi Arabian forces in May. Three of the nine had been found dead in 2009; the fate of three Germans and a Briton remained unclear.
Mass protests were held across the country against the worsening economic situation and substantial rises in fuel, electricity, water and food prices.
A presidential amnesty announced on 21 May appeared to apply to all political prisoners, including journalists, but the government did not give details about those it covered or the timeframe for releases. Later that month, 117 people detained on suspicion of taking part in the Sa'dah conflict and the protests in the south were released under the amnesty, as were four journalists. However, hundreds of other political prisoners remained held at the end of 2010.
New and draft laws undermined human rights protection. The Law on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, passed in January, provides a broad definition of the criminalization of financing terrorism and requires lawyers to disclose to the authorities information about their clients if they suspect them of offences under this law. The draft Counter Terrorism Law lacks provisions to protect the rights of suspects during arrest and detention, and proposes to expand the number of crimes punishable by death. Proposed amendments to the Penal Code could allow the death penalty to be used against juvenile offenders, in breach of international law. Two draft laws relating to the media threaten to further restrict freedom of expression.
Counter-terror and security
Government operations against suspected al-Qa'ida threats increased from the beginning of the year in the wake of an apparent attempt to blow up a US airliner on 25 December 2009 by a Nigerian man allegedly trained by al-Qa'ida in Yemen. There was enhanced US-Yemeni co-operation in such operations, including during air strikes and raids.
Attacks by armed groups continued, including by al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the attacks targeted security forces, others targeted foreign nationals or led to the killings of bystanders.