Efforts are being made in Yemen to build a new constitution and a new form of administration based on it. Passing new laws and implementing those laws is one of the most rational measures that can be taken against the risk of fragmentation without resorting to weapons. The aim is to build national unity in Yemen with this new constitution and the organizational structure it seeks to establish.
Of course, the structure and functioning of the state is not the only purpose of constitutions; it must also embody features intended to secure the happiness and well-being of Yemenis. The positive and negative obligations of the state must therefore be set forth.
Positive obligations include the duties of the state; in other words, the rights that the citizens expect from the state. Health, housing, work and social security are all rights of that kind. Such rights naturally impose various duties on the state in the social domain. These include taking measures regarding the protection of children and the family, the right to education, guarantees regarding the protection of those in agriculture and stockbreeding, the prevention of arbitrary confiscation of possessions and lands, and the right to work. Since these obligations entitle the citizens to demand something from the state, they are also known as “demand rights.”
The majority of these rights concern the social and economic spheres and are the result of the idea of a social state. “Demand rights” enshrined in the Yemeni constitution will determine how far the state supports and watches over its people.
Yemenis need to know that application of some positive obligations is restricted with the means available to the Yemeni state. For example, the development and care of children of working women may be described as an obligation of the state in law; however, if the state cannot find the funds to open nursery schools and day care centers for children, it will be impossible to implement.
Negative obligations concern those situations in which the state is obliged to refrain from interference with the citizenry. These obligations are also known as rights of negative status, and involve a negative approach, or non-involvement. Since these rights will protect Yemenis against state and society, they can also be referred to as “protective rights.”
Two of the main negative obligations are ensure the right to life by providing for security and the prevention of torture by the state. Some other negative obligations of the state are:
The right to a fair trial in court
The state respecting citizens’ right of privacy
Yemeni citizens being able to freely express their opinions in the country
People in Yemen being free to choose their faith and fulfill its requirements
No Yemeni being subjected to discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion or anything else
The establishment of institutions in which citizens can effectively seek their rights
There is no reason why even low levels of income should restrict individual rights and freedoms. No matter what the form of administration, so long as negative obligations in particular are set out thoroughly and implemented with care, a positive contribution will result that provides for the peace of mind and prosperity of Yemen’s citizens.
Therefore, the constitution to be drawn up is not only a necessity in order to establish national unity, but must also be regarded as an opportunity to raise quality of life.
There is no doubt that the definition of the state’s positive and negative obligations under the law will be a turning point for the development of human rights in Yemen. However, in order to build up a culture of human rights in the country, the fastest route forward regarding this subject is to educate Yemenis.
The most important guarantor of human rights is a nation with an awareness of those rights. Yemenis having an awareness of their rights will prevent of their violation.
This education in the awareness of human rights must be based on the moral values of the Qur’an because religion is the foundation of human rights. Our religion teaches us concepts regarding moral virtue, what is right and wrong and how to be just people.
Democracy and people being free to choose their own faith are excellent outcomes of religious moral values. All constitutions stem from religion and nobody could have drawn up a constitution without religion. Right, wrong and human rights were all taught to us by God. Everyone can choose his own faith and live his life as he wishes.
According to the Qur’an, nobody can be coerced into changing his faith, and no life style can be imposed through violence. As God reveals in verse 256 of Surat al-Baqara, “There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned…” And displeasure with others’ ideas, beliefs or lifestyles must not be expressed through insults, violence, and aggression. Instead, we must follow verse 6 of Surat al-Kafirun, “You have your faith and I have my faith.”
Laws based on religious moral values stating that you cannot impose what you believe to be true on others must be included in the Yemeni constitution. If the people of Yemen act with that knowledge, it will be possible to establish peace and security throughout the entire community.
Under the new constitution, the state must be defined as a vehicle for establishing the happiness and well-being of the Yemeni people. The rights of the people must also be guaranteed under the constitution and sanctions must be imposed against any violations of it. In this manner, the future of the Yemeni people can be secured with freedom, peace, and happiness for all.
Adnan Oktar's piece on National Yemen: