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International Law

Do Yemeni Hospital Raids Violate Human Rights and the Rule of Law?

In post-revolutionary Yemen, a republic where it is legal to have arranged marriages to 9-year-old girls who have reached puberty, and where justice frequently turns a blind eye on torture, it is unsurprising that treatment of hospital patients has come under criticism by human rights organizations and other NGOs.

According to Human Rights Watch, Yemeni government forces raid hospitals to apprehend Islamic militants and violent criminals. Because both the patients and the government forces are armed, gun fights ensue with additional wounded and loss of life. Ironically, at least those injured in those gun battles are in the best place to be if they need wound care.

Medical staff and medical facility security who interfere with apprehensions risk beatings or death. Under these hostile circumstances, Doctors Without Borders has shut down one Aden hospital.

For human rights to be protected and the rule of law to be restored, the following steps should be taken by the Yemeni government with international support as needed.

1. As a precondition to treatment, all patients and nongovernment visitors must go through screening by hospital security that includes total disarmament.

2. No patient should be detained unless the government security personnel doing so are acting pursuant to the rule of law (e.g., an arrest warrant).

3. Until a physician certifies that a patient's health status permits transport, the patient should not be removed from the hospital to face justice.

One hopes that an updated national constitution and the 2014 elections will create some stability for the Yemeni government. However, human rights and the rule of law must be respected in the interim, including the rights of hospital patients.

Recommended Reading

Yemeni hospitals serve as battlegrounds, UPI (Oct. 22, 2012)

Yemen forces endanger health care by raiding hospitals :HRW, Chicago Tribune (Oct. 20, 2012)

Rights Group: Yemen Security Forces Raid Hospitals, AP via ABC News (Oct. 20, 2012)