CIVICUS: International community must protect pro-democracy protestors in Yemen and Syria

Johannesburg. 28 March 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation reiterates solidarity with pro-democracy protestors in Yemen and Syria. The international community must take concrete steps to ensure the safety of the protestors against deadly attacks.

"As the world's attention turns to the crisis in Libya, it's important that the international community doesn't lose sight of the legitimate struggles for democratic rights being waged by the Yemeni and Syrian people," said Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director of CIVICUS. "Thousands of people in these countries are risking their lives by coming out onto the streets to express their revulsion at the decades of repression by their governments. They must be protected in the exercise of their rights."


In Syria, over 100 people have reportedly been killed since the anti-government protests calling for greater freedoms and democratic rights began on 18 March. In Yemen, over 50 people have been killed in widespread protests calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been running the country for 32 years, to step down.

"The indiscriminate manner and the impunity with which the protestors have been targeted in Syria and Yemen is shocking," said Belay. "Moreover, it's a flagrant violation of international human rights law."

A state of emergency has been declared in Yemen since 18 March when government snipers randomly targeted the protestors. On 23 March, the Yemeni Parliament approved sweeping emergency legislation authorising 30 days of expanded powers for security forces to arbitrarily detain pro-democracy protestors and deny them recourse to the courts. Officials are also empowered to censor news and information to prevent the public from accessing information about the ongoing protests.

"Hurried passing of emergency laws with scant regard for constitutional principles and international obligations is an act of desperation by the regime. It also brings home the fact that the President Saleh is prepared to use any means to scuttle the aspirations of the people," said Mandeep Tiwana, Policy Manager at CIVICUS.

In Syria, the crackdown on demonstrators protesting the denial of democratic freedoms has been intense. The extreme authoritarian nature of the regime and the total clampdown on the media have prevented the free flow of information from the country. Nevertheless, credible reports point to unwarranted and excessive use of force by security forces which has caused a large number of deaths.

"The blood bath by President Assad's henchmen against the protestors must stop. Moreover, the international community has a responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes committed against the Syrian people are brought to justice," Tiwana said. CIVICUS remains deeply concerned by the failure of Yemeni and Syrian authorities to protect the lives of the protestors as well as to carry out an impartial investigation into the circumstances in which they were gunned down.

CIVICUS urges the United Nations and the international community to:

• Use diplomatic leverage with the authorities in Yemen and Syria to enable respect for democratic freedoms

• Focus attention on putting in place an independent mechanism to investigate the killings of pro-democracy protestors

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world.



For more information please contact CIVICUS:

Rowena McNaughton (), Media Officer

or Mandeep Tiwana (), Policy Manager

Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959