INTRODUCTION This guide aims to explain the Yemeni legal and prison system to British Nationals who are imprisoned in Yemen.
Who can help?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
The FCO is represented overseas by its Embassies (High Commissions in Commonwealth countries). Both employ consular officers, and one of their jobs is to provide help and advice to any Briton who gets into difficulty in a foreign country.
About the Embassy
We are impartial; we are not here to judge you. We aim to make sure that you are treated properly and fairly in accordance with Yemeni regulations, and that you are treated no less favorably than other prisoners. We can answer questions about your welfare and about prison regulations but you must ask your lawyer or the court about legal matters. A list of lawyers is provided by the British Embassy for your convenience, but neither Her Majesty’s Government, nor any official of the Consulate; take any responsibility for the competence or probity of any firm/advocate on the list or for the consequences of any legal action initiated or advice given.
We cannot get you out of prison, pay fines or stand bail or interfere in local judicial procedures to get you out of prison nor secure you an earlier trial date; we cannot investigate a crime.
We have tried to make sure that the information provided here is accurate and up to date, but the British Embassy cannot accept legal responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information. If in doubt, contact a lawyer.
Who Are The Consular Representative? Samantha SmithHM Consul General
Ashwak Aleryani Pro Consul
Honorary Consul Hodeidah
Abdul Gabber Thabet
Tel: +967 3 228 700
Mobile: +967 733335006
British Embassy Sana’a
Opp Movenpick Hotel
Tel: 01 302480/1/2/3/4/5
Fax: 01 302454
Sunday to Thursday: 08:00am – 03.30pm
Who will know that I have been detained?
As soon as a British citizen is arrested and detained in Yemen, the Yemeni authorities must let the detainee contact the British Embassy in Sana’a. But we are frequently not informed within 24 hours. It is essential that you inform the British Embassy as soon as possible after your arrest. It is your right to do so. You may also be able to make a phone call to the Embassy or to family (with a covering charge).
What will my family be told?
For reasons of confidentiality we are not permitted to tell anyone that you have been detained or what the charges are without your permission.
However, should you wish to inform your family, we can make contact with them through our colleagues in the FCO in London. We can give your family or next of kin advice on prison procedure, regulations, and how you are doing. We can also pass on any messages from you.
What will the Consulate do?
We aim to make contact with you within 24 hours of being notified of your arrest, and will seek to meet you. However this will depend on where in Yemen you are being held. It is not possible for Embassy staff to travel to many places of Yemen at the time. In some circumstances we may:
1) Request your transfer to Sana’a
2) ask a 3rd party to visit you (i.e. warden Honorary Consul)
In case they wish to transfer any money to you, we can tell your next-of-kin how to transfer money through the FCO in London. Money for prisoners should be sent to:
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Olu Abayomi / Tanweer Hussain
Desk for Yemen
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
Tel: 0207 008 8784
If you have dual nationality and are imprisoned in the country of your other nationality the British Consul cannot assist you formally, under international law. However, Consular staff will provide whatever informal assistance the local authorities will allow. This may be extremely limited in Yemen. Your relatives and friends can contact the above address.
THE YEMENI JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Is the system the same in the UK?
The Legal system in Yemen is based on Islamic and common law. For example, prisoners are presumed innocent until proven guilty; they have a right to a legal representative, an interpreter, fair trial and appeal. However there are fundamental differences. For example, there is no jury system and judicial processes are not always correctly followed. In addition, the Yemeni judicial system has been through a very difficult period recently and as a result it is extremely hard to achieve anything quickly. On the whole the Yemeni judicial system is very bureaucratic.
Remember, you should never sign anything you cannot read. If you find yourself under pressure to sign, ask to speak to the British Embassy.
In a criminal case, first the police investigate the case, open the file, take statements of the witnesses, collect whatever other evidence may be available, and prepare a report. At this stage lawyers of the defense are not allowed to participate.
After this the file is sent to the Prosecution Branch headed by a legally qualified person who rehears the witnesses in the presence of the accused and his lawyer representing the suspect. Therefore he frames the charge.
After that the file is sent to the competent court for trial.
Usually there is a considerable time gap between the time the file is sent to the court for trial and the date when the trial commences. Trial procedures are quite similar to in courts abroad except that in other countries the trial is conducted continuously and judgment is delivered, in Yemen the trial takes place in parts and after each part session the case is adjourned to another date. The procedure is very slow and unsatisfactory. Sentences After the sentence is passed the convict serves his sentence in jail. The period may be reduced for good behavior i.e. two months for each year. Bails are very seldom granted.
Legal aid is not available to either nationals or foreigners. In serious cases the Bar Association may appoint a lawyer if the courts asks them to do so.
A family member is allowed to visit a prisoner once a week and provide him with food, clothing, and some money through the jail staff. Visiting hours are open throughout the day when a visit is allowed. Every item is scrutinized and letters may be censored.
What happens when I am arrested?
If you are arrested at the airport you will initially spend some time in a police cell near the airport. Police should read the charges and your rights. Whilst you are there police will usually gather evidence and interrogate you. You will be taken from the airport to cells in the Anti Narcotics Police Station, near the airport, where a state prosecutor will start the first phase of investigation.
Although the law states that you are allowed to immediately appoint a lawyer and interpreter, in the case of drug offences, this will only be permitted shortly before giving your statement. You have the right to remain in silent until you get a lawyerand proper legal guidance. You should also ask for some time and privacy to speak alone with your lawyer (or public defender) to brief him on the circumstances of your arrest before you give your initial statement or deposition before the Prosecutor. You will then be placed on remand.
You will usually remain in the police anti narcotics cell for at least 4 days.
Under Yemeni law you should be taken straight to the remand prison once the Judge has submitted a detention order. However, in reality there is no limit on the length of time you can be held in police cells, as this depends on space availability in the remand prison (called the CDP: Centro de Detention Provisional). In both places, you will share a cell with possibly several people. You may have access to your belongings, but this depends on whether the police consider them as evidence. If considered as evidence you will not be allowed to keep your possessions. In principle, all seized belongings will be listed in the detention report. Your passport and other identification will be taken away. These can be difficult to retrieve afterwards, although we will try and get them back, since your passport is officially property of the British Government. In some instances you will not give a statement until you are moved from the police station. It all very much depends on the availability of judges, lawyers and interpreters, and the speed at which the police investigate your case.
If you are being held by the Political Security Office (PSO) their main prison is in Sanaa. Conditions are very basic but visits by consular staff are allowed. Most BNs held are held for a short periods. Deportation is at the prisoner’s expense despite that Yemen having signed the Hagen convention insisting the authorities’ final deportation would seriously delay release. If you are deported and your family is also inside Yemen they will be deported too.
PRISON CONDITIONS / SERVICES
General prison conditions
There are 4 prisons in Sanaa for prisoners held not more than three months, and a central prison for prisoners held for longer terms. Each governorate in Yemen holds a prison, while there are 21 governorates in the Republic of Yemen over-crowding is still a major problem. The main cause of overcrowding is the high rate of pre-trial detention and the lengthy delays in completing the judicial process. Especially in the Central Prison. The number of inmates to each cell entirely depends on the size of the cell and the number of prisoners in the particular prison. Women’s prisons are separate to the men’s. Toilets are mostly shared, and a prisoner would have a tap to use as a wash basin. Showers are mostly separate and shared. Hot water is rarely supplied. Clothes washing are not possible in prison you can ask relatives or friends to take and bring clean washed changing clothes Prisoners are confined to their cells for weeks some times. Prisoners are allowed out of their cells very rarely
If you experience serious harassment, threats or violence you should report this to the Embassy as soon as possible. We are able to take up allegations of mistreatment against a British national with the prison authorities. However, we will only raise concerns if you request that we do so.
What about money?
In Yemeni prisons we strongly advise prisoners not to make it evident if they have access to regular funds (keep cash deliveries to a minimum, always make them through the Embassy, advice visitors/family not to send/deliver expensive gifts or large parcels). Foreign prisoners are usually considered to be rich; as a result they are sometimes targeted by gangs within the prison and are therefore likely to be victims of theft and extortion.
Prisoners Abroad (see page 26) can help prisoners who have no other financial support, by sending a monthly grant via the Embassy for the purchase of food and other essentials. Let the Embassy know if you need this support, or write directly to the Prisoners Abroad caseworker for Yemen.
Can I have my own cell?
Overcrowding is a problem so it is very unlikely that you will get your own cell. Usually there are between 2-10 prisoners in a cell. Bedding and mattresses are not provided. It is not secure to keep belongings, unless prisoner makes arrangements, usually at a cost. In some prisons bathroom is not allowed to be used at night time.
Can I receive medical and dental treatment?
If you need medical or dental treatment you should ask to see the prison doctor or dentist. There is an appointment list and pass system. Depending on number of patients, prisoners can either be assisted the same day or within a few days. Basic medical attention is free of charge. Most prisons have only few doctors and very often medicine is not available. It is unlikely that you will be treated by a doctor who speaks English.
If medicine is not available at the prison, you or the prison doctor should contact the Embassy. The cost of prescribed medication has to be covered either by the prisoner or, if a prisoner qualifies, through Prisoners A broad’s medical fund.
Prison doctors are often the equivalent of GPs in the UK, so unusual or complex problems may be referred to a specialist outside the prison –public hospitals-. Such treatment is often not free. Making an appointment with the public hospital and arranging a security escort can be very bureaucratic. If you face problems arranging a visit with a specialist, you should contact the Embassy to see if they can assist with the process.
If you have a long-standing medical problem and have received treatment for it in the UK, it may be useful if you have your medical records, or at least a report, sent from your doctor in the UK. Your UK doctor can send the report, via the Embassy, addressed to you.
Food and Diet
There is a provision of food within the prison. Prison food is free but may not be sufficient to fulfill your dietary needs. You would need funds to pay for supplements to your diet, which can be bought at from outside, either by one of the prison officers or by relatives/Embassy staff to deliver it to you during visits.
Approximate prices (YR) of basic products as follows:
Bread (20 YR per piece)
Coke (fizzy drinks) (1 can 60-90YR) 2literes bottle= 200-250YR
Tea (1 packet 700-800YR)
Coffee (70 YR per cup
Water (100YR a bottle / 1.50-2.00 liters)
Sugar (250 YR per pound)
Tuna (280 YR per tin)
Meat (1400-2500 per pound)
Milk (0.80 ½ liter bag / 1.60 liters) powdered sachet 3.20
Chocolate bar (0.85-200YR)
Potatoes (300YR per pound)
Fruit (bananas) (200YR per pound) (100 YR per apples)
Vegetables (50 YR per piece)
Clothes washing (150YR each item)
The Embassy is not able to forward mail on your behalf back to the UK, or on behalf of other people to you. All letters are opened and checked by prison staff before they are given to prisoners. Mail cannot be sent directly to the prison from the UK since there is no postal system in the prison.
Can I have a radio, CD player, cassette player, mobile phone and television?
You are not allowed to have any luxury items in your cell unless you are in one of the best wings of the prison. In addition, guards have been known to request a small payment to allow prisoners to have such items in their cells. You can have books to read if prison officer approves depending on the type of book. No political religious or books that might include sensitive issues can be allowed into prison.
Can I make telephone calls?
This can be done through arrangements with the prison Officer. You should contact the Embassy if you were not utterly allowed to make telephone calls to your family.
We hope to visit you every 3 months. You will be called to the prison administration offices during a consular visit. You can also contact us by telephone. Prisoners receive quarterly deliveries of funds and letters via the Embassy/Honorary Consulate drivers.
Visits by family, or friends
You are allowed to receive visitors daily especially family who can provide diet meals on daily bases. Visitors enter into the prison itself and prisoners can spend time with visitors in the patio or in their cells. Visitors must identify themselves when they arrive at the prison by showing an identification document containing a photograph (e.g. passport). This is held by the prison and returned at the end of the visit. Visitors will be searched before entering the prison.
What kind of legal assistance is available?
Consular staff cannot give legal advice, but they can provide you with a list of lawyers. You can hire a lawyer for yourself at any time after your arrest; a list of English speaking lawyers is included in this information pack (page 8). The British Embassy cannot pay legal fees or guarantee to a lawyer that you will pay them. If you cannot afford a private lawyer you can apply at any time for a public defender. The Court must appoint a Lawyer if you do not have funds to hire a private lawyer and you are charged with a felony. Once a lawyer is identified, ensure to get his/her full name and a business card. If you do decide to pay for a lawyer, it is wise to agree a flat fee for the whole case before they begin work or you may find yourself facing „extra expenses‟. Make sure also to get a receipt of any payment and a commitment to keep you informed about the stage of your case, by providing you with copies of the judicial process. Ex-prisoners advise talking to other prisoners as they often know which lawyers to avoid and what hidden costs there might be.
How can appeals be made?
The accused has the right to appeal their sentence to the Provincial Court of Justice through their lawyers. However, the appeal process is very slow and can lead to delays in finalizing a sentence. There is a further appeal revision (“revision”) before the National Court which can be just as slow.
P.O. Box 1287, Sana’a
International Code: 00967
Sana’a 01 Fax: 00967 1 302 454
Aden 02 Tel: 00967 1 302 480/1/2/3/4/5
Taiz 04 firstname.lastname@example.org
SOME LEGAL ADVISOR/PRACTITIONERS IN THE
REPUBLIC OF YEMEN
Sheikh Tariq Abdullah, BA,LL.B Section A. Street No. 3
Location: Alwazir Bldg, next to Jordanian Airline, Saif Bin di Yazin Street
9. Mohamed Taha Hamood & Co P.O.Box 19503, Sanaa
Location: Zabara Building, 60th Ring
10. Mr. Abdalla Al Meqbei P.O. Box 7248, Sana’
Abdalla Al Meqbeli & Associates Tel: 419326
Solicitors,Advocates and Notaries Fax: 416198
NOTE All above lawyers speak English and most practise both criminal and civil laws.
This list is provided by the Consular section, British Embassy for the convenience of enquirers, but neither Her Majesty’s Government nor any official of the Embassy take any responsibility for the competence or probity of any firm/advocate on the list or for the consequence of any legal action initiated or advice given.