This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of Yemen (Al Jumhuriyah al Yamaniyah), based on research produced by the Library of Congress. Under Yemen's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) is the primary source of legislation.
Yemen is a country located in the Middle East, bordering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea. Yemen is bounded by Oman and Saudi Arabia. The capital of Yemen is Sanaa. The official language is Arabic. The country’s population in 2017 was approximately 28 million. The official religion of Yemen is Islam. Yemen is a predominantly Muslim country, and about 99% of the population is Muslim (65% of whom are Sunnī and 35% of whom are Shīʿī). Yemen is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Arab League.
There is a large refugee population in Yemen. Yemen is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula that has signed international accords governing the protection of refugees. Refugees and asylum seekers living in Yemen are predominantly from Somalia, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Syria. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have been internally displaced due to the ongoing Yemeni Civil War (2015–present).
Constitution & Legal Structure
Before the Yemeni Civil War (2015-present), Yemen was referred to as a parliamentary republic, in which sovereignty belonged to the people and the Constitution was the supreme law of the land. However, at present, the conflict in Yemen has escalated such that there are numerous competing factions and the government system can be best described as "in transition." The current Constitution was adopted in 1991. While a new Constitution was drawn up in 2015, it remains unofficial due to the ongoing conflict. Broadly, the system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. However, again, its functionality is limited due to the ongoing Civil War. The legal system of Yemen is a mixed legal system of French civil law and English common law that has been influenced by Islamic legal tradition and customary laws.
Constitutional Status of Islamic Law
Islamic law has constitutional status in Yemen, and sharīʿa is a primary source of legislation.
Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law
Islamic law has official jurisdiction of operation in Yemen, primarily in family courts. Sharīʿa holds particular influence in dealing with matters of personal status. Furthermore, sharīʿa influences the penal law of Yemen, permitting the use of corporal punishments. Islam is taught in all Yemeni public schools.
Dominant School of Islamic Law
Yemen does not have an official school of Islamic jurisprudence. Yemeni Sunnīs predominantly adhere to the Shāfiʿī school, while Yemeni Shīʿīs predominantly adhere to the Zaydī school.
Sources of Law for Legal Research
For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide. The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].