Yemen: Massive human rights violations continue

29.12.22

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is concerned about ongoing human rights violations that restrict freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and women’s rights in Yemen. While welcoming the release of two journalists and the return of the Voice of Yemen radio broadcast, GCHR calls on the authorities to overturn death sentences handed down against journalists and citizens.

Four journalists face ill-treatment and torture

On 06 November 2022, the Specialised Criminal Appeals Court (Division) in the capital, Sana’a, decided to oblige the Public Prosecution to bring four journalists, Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri, back to court for a hearing scheduled for 04 December 2022. However, they were not brought to this hearing, and court was adjourned to 22 January 2023. Reliable local sources confirmed that their failure to bring the journalists to court is evidence that they have been subjected to torture and that the authorities fear they will speak about it before the court.

On 22 April 2020, the four journalists filed an appeal against the initial death sentence issued against them by the Specialised Criminal Court in a hearing held on 11 April 2020.

In October 2020, the four journalists were transferred from the Security and Intelligence Prison to the Exchange House, which is a prison that holds prisoners whom the de facto government (the Houthi group) decides to exchange with Houthi prisoners of war held by other parties to the conflict. The exchange house is located in the central security camp in Sana'a. The prisoner exchange operations are supervised by the Chairman of the Houthi Prisoner Exchange Committee, Abdulqadir Al-Murtada. Since their transfer, they have not had access to their families or lawyers.

On 02 December 2022, the families of the kidnapped journalists issued an appeal in which they confirmed that journalist Tawfiq Al-Mansouri had been severely tortured and beaten on the head inside the exchange house in Sana'a by the head of the prisoner exchange committee, Abdulqadir Al-Murtada and his brother, and the torture continued for 45 days. The statement also mentioned that after that, the four journalists were isolated in a cell without covers, and they were prevented from all forms of communication or exposure to the sun, in addition to being treated more harshly than before, as they were denied appropriate medical care despite the fact that they had many chronic diseases.

For more information on their case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/3084 and https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/3152.

Actress Intisar Al-Hammadi appeals 5-year sentence

Reliable local reports received by GCHR confirmed that the Second Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in Sana’a will hold its first hearing on 01 January 2023, for the appeal submitted by the defense team against the initial judgment handed down to actress and model Intisar Abdulrahman Al-Hammadi (pictured at right in the main photo), who is still in the central prison in Sana'a.

On 08 November 2021, the West Capital Municipality Court of First Instance in Sana’a sentenced Al-Hammadi to five years in prison for alleged prostitution and drug use. She was arrested at a checkpoint on 20 February 2021 and has been detained since then, during which time she has been abused and attempted suicide. Three other women arrested on similar charges have been freed, but the curtailment of women’s rights continues in Yemen.

Court rules in favour of Voice of Yemen Radio

On 24 December 2022, the Press and Publications Court in Sana’a issued its ruling obligating the Ministry of Information to issue a licensing certificate to Voice of Yemen Radio, to return its broadcasting device and to compensate it for the previous period during which it was arbitrarily closed, with an amount of 700,000 Riyals (approx. USD$2,800) for each month since the closure until it starts broadcasting again.

A group affiliated with the Houthi group had stormed the radio building on 25 January 2022, stopped its broadcast, and stormed it again on 11 July 2022, and confiscated its broadcast equipment.

Journalist released

On 07 December 2022, journalist Younis Abdulsalam Ahmed Abdulrahman, 29 years old, was released. On 22 August 2022, GCHR issued an urgent appeal calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

He had been arbitrarily arrested and detained since 04 August 2022, by the Houthi Security and Intelligence Service, which is run by the de facto government in Sana'a.

Journalist acquitted

On the same day, 07 December 2022, the Specialised Criminal Court of First Instance in the city of Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout Governorate, acquitted journalist Hala Fouad Badawi of the charges against her.

On 19 April 2022, the same court decided to release her on bail after she was arrested on 30 December 2021 for writing about corruption. Local reports confirmed that she was tortured during her detention in the Military Intelligence prison, and before her transfer to the central prison in Mukalla on 04 January 2022.

16 detained citizens of Saada sentenced to death

On 07 December 2022, the Specialised Criminal Court of First Instance in Sana'a handed down a death sentence against 16 detained citizens from the Governorate of Saada, after convicting them of "aiding the Saudi-Emirati aggression countries and communicating with them to harm the war, political and economic status of the Republic of Yemen." Of the 16 defendants, nine were sentenced in absentia.

In addition, seven citizens were sentenced to 15 years in prison, and six others to 19 years, after they were all convicted of the same charges. They were ordered to be placed under police supervision for a period of three years after serving their sentences, and obligated to sign a pledge to pay a financial guarantee.

The court also issued its verdict acquitting three out of the total number of 32 detainees. The Houthi government has repeatedly used the death penalty against journalists and other citizens following fabricated charges and sham trials.

Recommendations

GCHR calls on the de facto government in Sana'a, the Houthi group, to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release the four journalists after overturning their sentences;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally release actress Intisar Al-Hammadi, and end the persecution of women and the requirement that they need permission from a man to travel;
  3. Revoke the sentences against 32 citizens who were subjected to an unfair trial that lacked the minimum international standards of fair trial and due process, and free those in detention;
  4. End the use of the death penalty to stifle freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;
  5. Respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and allow journalists to do their work; and
  6. Implement the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and in particular Rule V(1) which states, “The prison system should endeavor to minimise the differences between prison and free life.”