Yemen continues to rank poorly on global corruption indices, despite becoming a signatory of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) on December 11 2003. In 2013 Yemen was ranked 167 out of 177 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index1.
In recent years Yemen has passed legislation, such as the National Anti-Corruption Law 2006 and the Financial Disclosure Act 2007, in an effort to tackle this widespread corruption.
Significant among the recent innovations in the fight against corruption in Yemen, was the formation—under the National Anti-Corruption Act 2006—of an 11-member Supreme Authority to Combat Corruption2 (SNACC). Established in 2007, the SNACC operates with financial and administrative autonomy, and has an independent corporate and legal structure. In collaboration with stakeholders and donors, the SNACC has developed a National Anti-Corruption Strategy (2010- 2014).
All of this notwithstanding, whistleblowers currently have no direct legislative protection in Yemen.
2. Present legal environment
a. Public sector
Currently, Anti-Corruption Law No (39) for 2006 contains Article 27, which stipulates “The Authority will secure legal protection for reporters (informers on corruption) and witnesses, and its bylaws will define procedures for their protection”.
However, while the Executive Bylaw of the Anti-Corruption Law explicitly specifies measures for informer and witness (etc.) protection, at the time of writing, lawyers and/or journalists who have attempted to report on corruption cases have not been afforded protection.
b. Private sector
The protection set out in Article 27 of the Anti-corruption Law No (39) is not specific for individual sectors (private, corporate).
c. Reporting mechanisms
A reporting form is located on the SNACC website3. Submitted reports and notifications are forwarded to a specific section of the SNACC.
3. Political, economic, and cultural environment
A general positivity regarding post-revolutionary inclusive change prevails in Yemen, despite a fractured political landscape that has been marred by recent unrest and a long history of conflict.
A political shift—based on an agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—is currently underway Yemen. It is anticipated that legislative and presidential elections—to be held under a new constitution in February 2014–and the resulting change in power, will mark the end of this transition.
Prior to recent events, Yemen was already considered one of the poorest countries in the Arab region—with a per-capita GDP of US$ 1,209—and the Yemeni economy has been further adversely impacted by the recent unrest. Significant pressure is placed on educational and health services, drinking water, and employment opportunities4 by the population growth rate of Yemen, which is among the highest in the world.
Several attacks have occurred against journalists in corruption related cases in Yemen5.
5. Information environment
In an action considered a crucial advancement in Yemen’s transition toward democracy, the Right of Access to Information Law was passed by Yemen’s parliament on April 24, 2012. Yemen’s President, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, however, refused to ratify the legislation and on June 10, 2012, returned the bill to the Parliament with six proposed amendments6.
Among the amendments requested by the President were changes to Article 13, which when passed on 24 April 2012 read:
“No punishment shall be inflicted on any employee who gives information about the irregularities or violations that breaches this law or assist in the investigation of irregularities or violations of this law. The employee may not also be punished in his occupation through legal proceedings or otherwise”.
And was amended to read:
“No criminal punishment shall be sanctioned on any employee who provides information to competent investigation authority about irregularities or violations of this law or helps in any investigation into these irregularities and violations. This employee also may not be held accountable for disciplinary reasons by the administrative body he follows”.
As a result Article 13 permits protection of public employees only if they released information to an approved “investigation authority”. .Additionally, protection under the Law is only provided against administrative sanctions imposed by the agency that employs the whilstblower, leaving the whistleblower open to other sanctions.
On 16 June the Parliament passed an amended version of the Right of Access to Information Law and 0n 1 July the President signed it into law. This law is only the third right to information law in an Arab nation following Jordan (2007) and Tunisia (2011).
Prior to the amendments, an assessment of the Right of Access to Information Law by the Centre for Law and Democracy awarded it a score of 102 points out of a possible 150 points on the RTI Rating, ranking it in 21stplace globally7.
Nevertheless, the Right of Accessed to Information Law has created a reasonably durable structure for the right to information in Yemen.
Yemen Journalist Against Corruption http://www.yemenjac.net/ (in Arabic).
6. Citizen participation
Article 25 of the Anti-corruption Law No (39) For 2006 explicitly states:
“The Authority will enhance the participation of civil society organisations in activities of rejecting corruption, raising public awareness about risks and impacts of corruption, and campaigning against tolerance towards corruption doers.”
7. Rule of law
The Yemeni political system lacks adequate checks and balances, and as a result politics is dominated by the Yemeni Government’s executive branch. The president’s party holds an overwhelming majority in the country’s parliament and this, coupled with the ineffectiveness of the judiciary, results in a concentration of power by the President and the executive branch.
Under Yemen’s constitution the judiciary acts as an autonomous institution and judges are independent. However, in practice an executive branch council, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), manages the judiciary and appoints and removes judges. The Yemeni judicial system is relatively weak, the government often hesitates in enforcing judgments and there is widespread corruption. Tribal leaders also use personal discretion in interpreting and applying the law, and have been known to frequently intimidate and harass judges8.
In excess of 30 cases of judicial corruption have been referred to prosecutors by the SNACC and in late 2010 approximately 500 were under investigation9.
6 An English translation of the President’s comments is available at: http://www.freedominfo.org/2012/06/yemen-foi-bill-finalized-with-six-presidential-amendments/