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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert

Chapter 5: Internal Difficulties and External Constraints

The Judicial Status of the NGO’s (abstract)

Anaïs Casanova

Entrées d'index

Keywords :

associative law

Texte intégral

1The freedom of association is an important judicial basis for the establishment and development of civil society. Therefore, the control of the right of association represents for the government a means to keep control of the tendencies of civil society, preventing it from becoming a counter power. The freedom of association is legally established in Yemen by such international conventions as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), it is also recorded in the Constitution of the reunified Yemen (1991). However, a precise evaluation of the degree of liberty of association can be made only by way of studying legal texts, because the Constitution does not address directly a citizen. In the light of this, Anais Casanova tries to clarify the legal regime of associations and foundations in Yemen, that is, how it is defined by the most recent legislation, namely, by law # 1 of 2001 and the application decree of 2004.

2It is clear that the adoption of this law was motivated by the desire of the government to comply with the request of democratization coming from abroad. The claim from Yemeni associations, taken over by international institutions, such as the UN program for Development, made the government redefine the right of association. Thus, the author raises a question, whether such a law, importing foreign standards of democracy, fits into the Yemen reality on the one hand, and on the other, whether its adoption is but a façade vis-à-vis foreign investors.

3In her study, the author uses a comparative approach between French Law and Yemeni Law. Through differences and similarities between the two, the author shows the Yemen Republic’s dedication to guarantee the freedom of association, but also its desire to control administratively the activity of civil society.

4Unlike the situation in France, the freedom of association in Yemen is subject to a declarative system, that is, to an obligation to inform beforehand the public authorities about any exercising of the right of association. Consequently, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MSAL) can, in theory, block founding an association even before it started its functioning. Other restrictions reflect the government’s effort to restrain the creation of associations, or at least, to keep their members and their activities under its control. Thus, the law prescribes a minimum number of members necessary for the creation of an association. The MSAL justifies this restriction by the desire of the government to surpass family and tribal structures which are typical for Yemen society. This orientation is also felt in that the associations are not allowed to carry out any political action. Finally, many administrative restrictions still overburden the freedom of association: necessity to submit annual reports of the association, obligatory presence of an official during the elections within an association, etc.

5Finally, the author shows her interest in the practices complementary to the law. She notices that in the application decree (2004), new obligations arose, which are more constraining than it was foreseen by the law. This indicates that normative hierarchy has been disregarded. Thus, the demand of renewing registration annually is an illegal practice which reflects the MSAL’s tutorial role.

6What is still more important, the author underscores the existence of political objectives, superior to legal norms, which restrain associative activity. Following its own decision, the MSAL suspended in 2006 the registration of new associations for one year before the presidential elections, in order to check the embezzlement of governmental subventions for political activities. However, this type of administrative suspension is not mentioned by any legal text.

7Therefore, there is a certain misbalance between the right of freedom of association and the actual administrative control over the associations’ activities. On the other hand, it is not so much the legal regulations of the right of association that restrain most the functioning of the associations in Yemen, but rather the absence of stare based on law and an insufficient independence of the legal system.

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2008

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