Yemen: Arbitrary detention of human rights defenders Awfa Al-Na’ami and her colleague Alhassan Al-Qawtari


On 28 January 2019, human rights defenders Awfa Al-Na’ami and her colleague Alhassan Al-Qawtari were summoned by the National Security (Mokabarat) Office in Sana’a, which is controlled by the Houthi forces, for a meeting at 12PM. There were both arrested on arrival and held incommunicado without having access to their families or a lawyer. So far no charges have been directed against them.

Al-Na’ami is the director of Saferworld’s office in Yemen and Al-Qawtari works with her in the same office. Saferworld is an independent international organisation working to prevent violent conflict and build safer lives.

Also, Al-Na’ami is known for her various activities in defence of women’s rights and the mobilisation of youth to take a leading role in building a new Yemen where there is no war or conflict.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is seriously concerned for the safety of Awfa Al-Na’ami and her colleague Alhassan Al-Qawtari and is alarmed by the extreme violence against human rights defenders 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.  

GCHR calls on the Houthis and all parties to:

  1. Release Awfa Al-Na’ami, Alhassan Al-Qawtari in addition to all prisoners of conscience immediately and without any condition;
  2. Ensure they are protected from torture and ill-treatment, to which other detainees have been subjected;
  3. Guarantee all human rights defenders can perform their duties and work in a secure and safe space;
  4. Release all journalists detained by all parties to the conflict, including those detained as a result of their coverage of the war; and
  5. 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.”