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Yemen Intelligence Agencies

The Yemeni government is pursuing a broad strategy to counter terrorism and organized crime by implementing a new policy affecting all aspects of society. In the security aspect the government is 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 has about 71,000 troops. Approximately 50,000 constitute 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 is 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 currently has 1,200 personnel.

Yemen's primary and most feared internal security and intelligence-gathering force is the Political Security Organization (PSO), led by military officers; it reports directly to the president and operates its own detention centers. There are an estimated 150,000 personnel in the PSO. The Central Security Organization, which is part of the Ministry of Interior, maintains a paramilitary force and also has its own extrajudicial detention facilities. Also attached to the Ministry of Interior is 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 U.S. Department of State, members of the PSO and Ministry of Interior police forces have 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 escorting 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. For the first time in 5 years, the Government allowed residents of Saada Governorate to celebrate Ghadeer Day (a Shi'a holiday). In Dhamar, however, Ghadeer Day celebrations in late December sparked violent clashes that left four dead and six injured. During the reporting period, the Government also reportedly continued its efforts to stop the growth of the al-Houthis' popularity by limiting the hours that mosques were permitted to be open to the public. The Government maintained that it was only enforcing existing tradition that mosques should be used primarily for prayer and not for political activities. The 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 Government also continued efforts to close unlicensed schools and religious centers. By the end of the reporting period, 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 is reportedly rampant. Most often, this seems 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. To our knowledge, there have been no government investigations of 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.S. Department of State, Yemen's recent counterterrorism record is mixed. The government has been lax in enforcing terrorism convictions, provides lenient requirements for the completion of sentences to persons who surrender, has released all 12 returned Guantanamo detainees, and lacks a comprehensive counterterrorism law. However, Yemen's government continues to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of terrorist attacks. There is concern that Yemen's government has 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 are in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon and that Yemenites constitute one of the largest contingents of foreign fighters in Iraq (about 17 percent of total foreign fighters in Iraq according to some estimates).

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