Yemen Intelligence Agencies
The primary state security and intelligence-gathering entities, the Political Security Organization (PSO) and the National Security Bureau (NSB), report directly to the Office of the President. There was no clear definition of many of the NSB’s duties, which have evolved from protecting the country from external threats to overlapping with those of the PSO, which is domestically focused and charged with identifying and combating political crimes and acts of sabotage.
The Criminal Investigation Division reports to the Ministry of Interior and conducted most criminal investigations and arrests. The Central Security Forces (CSF), often responsible for crowd control and accused in the past of using excessive force, was renamed the Special Security Force (SSF) and placed under the direct authority of the interior minister, along with the Counter-Terrorism Unit. The Ministry of Defense also employed units under its formal supervision to quell domestic unrest and to participate in internal armed conflicts.
The Special Security Force (SSF), Yemen Special Operations Forces, Republican Guard, National Security Bureau (NSB), and other security organs ostensibly reported to civilian authorities in the Ministries of Interior and Defense and in the Office of the President. Civilian leadership of these agencies improved as a result of restructuring efforts outlined in the GCC initiative, which committed the government to reorganizing the security services and armed forces.
These units continued to be influenced by members of specific interest groups, however, from both former president Saleh’s family and other tribal and party entities, often through unofficial channels rather than through the formal command structure. Such influence, coupled with a lack of effective mechanisms to investigate and prosecute abuse and corruption, exacerbated the problem of impunity. Between December 2012 and November 2013 President Hadi issued several decrees that restructured key segments of the security forces.
Prior to the Arab Spring of 2011, the Yemeni government pursued a broad strategy to counter terrorism and organized crime by implementing a policy affecting all aspects of society. In the security aspect the government sought to eliminating vulnerabilities by updating doctrine and better equipping the Yemeni Armed Forces. The government created a special unit in the Republican Army to counter and combat terrorism effectively. Also, it created the General Administration to counter terrorism and organized crime affiliated with the Ministry of Interior. The creation of the National Security Council was aimed to reinforce counter terrorism activities and tackle organized crime to achieve comprehensive national security.
Yemen's paramilitary force had about 71,000 troops. Approximately 50,000 constituted the Central Security Organization of the Ministry of Interior; they are equipped with a range of infantry weapons and armored personnel carriers. An additional 20,000 are forces of armed tribal levies. Yemen was building up a small coast guard under the Ministry of Interior, training naval military technicians for posts in Aden and Al Mukalla. The coast guard had 1,200 personnel.
Yemen's primary and most feared internal security and intelligence-gathering force was the Political Security Organization (PSO), led by military officers; it reported directly to the president and operates its own detention centers. There were an estimated 150,000 personnel in the PSO. The Central Security Organization, which was part of the Ministry of Interior, maintains a paramilitary force and also had its own extrajudicial detention facilities. Also attached to the Ministry of Interior was the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the police, which conducts most criminal investigations and arrests. The total strength of the CID is estimated to be 13,000 personnel.
According to the US Department of State, members of the PSO and Ministry of Interior police forces committed serious human rights violations, including physical abuse and lengthy detentions without formal charges. In 2002 the government established the National Security Bureau, which reports directly to the president and appears to have similar responsibilities to those of the PSO, but it remains unclear how the two organizations coordinate their responsibilities.
Security forces were assigned to protect tourist groups and escort them during their visits to the historical and tourist sites in different provinces. Security forces were assigned to protect oil fields and oil companies working in Yemen. Moreover, land, sea and air forces were assigned to protect oil exporting ports in Al-Daba, Al-Nashima, Rodhom, the oil ship Safer, Ras Essa port and the oil refinery port of Aden. Security forces were assigned to escort gas vehicles in Sana'a, Marib road, in order to protect them from banditry, robbery and shooting.
Government actions to counter an increase in political violence in Saada restricted some practice of religion. The Government allowed residents of Saada Governorate to celebrate Ghadeer Day (a Shi'a holiday). The Government maintained that it was enforcing existing tradition that mosques should be used primarily for prayer and not for political activities. The Saleh Government continued to close down what it claimed to be extremist Shi'a religious institutes, reassigning imams who were thought to espouse radical doctrine and continuing monitoring of mosque sermons.
The Government's efforts concentrated on monitoring mosques for sermons that incite violence or other political statements that it considered harmful to public security. Private Islamic organizations could maintain ties to international Islamic organizations; however, the Government sporadically monitored their activities through the police and intelligence authorities.
The Saleh Government also continued efforts to close unlicensed schools and religious centers. A total of more than 4,500 unlicensed religious schools and institutions had been closed over several years. The Government expressed concern that these schools deviated from formal educational requirements and promoted militant ideology. The Government also deported some foreign students found studying in unlicensed religious schools. The Government prohibited private and national schools from teaching courses outside of the officially approved curriculum. The purpose of these actions was ostensibly to curb ideological and religious extremism and intolerance in schools.
The law prohibits torture; however, according to human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and former detainees, authorities tortured and abused persons in detention. The PSO stated in the previous year that torture does not occur at its facilities and noted that new PSO officers must sign a document certifying that they recognize torture is illegal according to the laws and constitution of the country and that those who torture prisoners will be punished according to the law. The 2008 Amnesty International (AI) report alleged that many detainees were tortured in PSO custody.
Reported torture tactics included beatings with fists, sticks, and rifle butts; scalding with hot water; excessively tight handcuffs; prolonged blindfolding; denial of water and access to toilets; and death threats. Sleep deprivation and solitary confinement were other forms of abuse reported in PSO prisons. Ministry of Interior (MOI) officers reportedly used force during interrogations, especially against those arrested for violent crimes. Penal law, based on the government's interpretation of Shari'a (Islamic law), permits amputations and physical punishment such as flogging for some crimes.
Corruption among the police in Yemen was reportedly rampant. Most often, this seemed to take the form of petty bribery. The Yemen Polling Center's survey on bribery found that 59% of respondents identified security bodies as among the most corruption-prone public sector institutions or sectors in the country. As with many government employees, low salaries appear to contribute heavily to police corruption. There have been reports that some police stations have "internal affairs" sections to investigate abuses; also, citizens have the right to file complaints with the public prosecutor.
Law enforcement and investigations are believed to be weak, ineffective and sporadic due to corruption; a lack of training, capacity and resources; and a slim government presence in and control over many rural areas. The police's Criminal Investigative Department (CID) reports to the Ministry of Interior and makes most arrests and conducts most criminal investigations. Because of its mandate, the CID may be the central locus of consequential police corruption in Yemen.
According to the U. Department of State, Yemen's counterterrorism record in the early years of the 2st Century was mixed. The government had been lax in enforcing terrorism convictions, provides lenient requirements for the completion of sentences to persons who surrender, had released returned Guantanamo detainees, and lacked a comprehensive counterterrorism law. However, Yemen's government continued to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of terrorist attacks. There was concern that Yemen's government had a limited capacity for stemming terrorism financing and has been unable to freeze the financial assets of United Nations-designated al Qaeda supporters. There are also reports that Yemeni jihadists were in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon and that Yemenites constituted one of the largest contingents of foreign fighters in Iraq.
Citizens regularly accused security officials of ignoring due process when arresting and detaining suspects and demonstrators. Some members of the security forces continued to arrest or detain incommunicado persons for varying periods without charge, family notification, or hearings. Detainees often did not know which investigating agency arrested them, and the agencies frequently complicated this determination by unofficially transferring custody of individuals among agencies. Security forces routinely detained relatives of fugitives as hostages until the fugitive was located. Authorities stated they detained relatives only when the relatives obstructed justice, but human rights organizations rejected this claim.
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