Yemen: Human rights defender Kamal Al-Shawish of Mwatana detained by Houthis in Hodeidah


On 14 August 2018, two armed men belonging to the armed group Ansar Allah (Houthis) arrested human rights defender Kamal Al-Shawish in a coffee shop on Sana'a Street in downtown Hodeidah. The armed men, who were wearing civilian clothes, blindfolded him and forced him into their car. They took him to an unknown destination and no information about his whereabouts or the reasons for his arrest have been disclosed.

Al-Shawish is a field research assistant of the NGO Mwatana for Human Rights who works in Hodeidah. Mwatana staff have previously been targeted. Mwatana’s leaders Radhya Al-Mutawakel and Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih were detained on 18 June 2018 by the Saudi-led coalition forces while attempting to travel abroad.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is highly concerned for the safety of Al-Shawish and is alarmed by the extreme violence against human rights and journalists, and the ongoing restrictions on freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Human rights defenders and journalists are regularly abducted or arrested and detained in undisclosed locations. According to Mwatana, 12 journalists arrested since 2015 remain in detention at the hands of the Houthis. For more information about this disturbing pattern, see a submission made by GCHR and its partners ahead of Yemen's 2019 Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  

GCHR calls on the Houthis and all parties to:

  1. Reveal the whereabouts of Kamal Al-Shawish and ensure he is protected from torture and ill-treatment, to which other detainees have been subjected;
  2. Guarantee that Kamal Al-Shawish and all other human rights defenders can perform their duties and work in a secure and safe space;
  3. Release all human rights defenders and journalists detained by all parties to the conflict, including those detained as a result of their coverage of the war; and
  4. Fully respect freedom of expression.

GCHR respectfully reminds all parties to the conflict in Yemen, that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”