United Nations urged to intervene to stop the political trials of dozens of detained human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and political detainees in Yemen and to find an international mechanism for accountability and achieving criminal justice.
SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties and nine Yemeni and international human rights organizations sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council to Intervene and halt impending executions of detainees in Yemen. The organizations urged the special procedures to intervene to halt impending executions of detainees held by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group and other parties to the conflict - to a lesser extent -. The organizations' statement said The UN should further act to address arbitrary detention by all parties to the conflict.
The organizations said that the increase in bringing political detainees, detainees held for expressing their opinions, and detainees based on gender to courts is a matter of concern, especially with the fragility of the judicial system and its division between the parties to the conflict.
In their appeal, the organizations added that the parties to the conflict employ the courts to prosecute the opponents and use propaganda to accuse them of ‘Spying in addition to communicating with the "enemy", ‘harming the sovereignty of the state;, to justify those flawed trials and sabotage their public images before the public in preparation for their trial. Courts belonging to these parties issued harsh penalties such as death, deprivation of liberty, and confiscation of positions, such as money.
The signatory organizations urged the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently intervene and Condemn the political trials of dozens of detained human rights defenders, journalists, academics and political prisoners in Yemen and extrajudicial executions in Yemen.
The signatory organizations demanded the repeal of death sentences against Yemenis who were arbitrarily detained and sentenced to death without a fair trial and Demanded that Ansar Allah put an end to the use of death sentences without a fair trial, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances, which constitute flagrant violations of Yemeni and international law.
The signatory organizations called on the international community to establish a criminally-focused investigative mechanism with a mandate to create case files to be used by competent prosecutorial authorities.
The organizations confirm that, since the beginning of the war in 2014, Yemen has witnessed the involvement of all parties to the conflict in the practice of gross Human rights violations.
The signatory organizations emphasize the seriousness of what Yemen is witnessing in regards to flawed trials of political detainees and/or prisoners of conscious and gender-based detainees. The organizations stressed profound impact such trials ton the restrictions of political freedoms, the right to freedom and expression, and the right to fair, impartial and neutral litigation.
The organizations highlight deterioration of the human rights situation in Yemen, in light of the failure of the international community to implement stricter measures in order to achieve and enhance justice and accountability in Yemen.
The increasing prosecution of political prisoners, prisoners of conscious, and gender-based detainees is a cause for concern, especially with the fragmentation and politicization of the judiciary institutions and its division between the parties to the conflict. In fact, the parties to the conflict employ the courts to prosecute the opponents and use propaganda to accuse them of ‘Spying in addition to communicating with the "enemy", ‘harming the sovereignty of the state;, to justify those flawed trials and sabotage their public images before the public in preparation for their trial. Courts belonging to these parties issued harsh penalties such as death, deprivation of liberty, and confiscation of positions, such as money.
According to the OHCHR, “international law establishes very strict conditions for the application of capital punishment, including compliance with fair trial and due process standards. The execution of juvenile offenders is unequivocally prohibited under international law, regardless of the circumstances and nature of the crime committed. In the context of an armed conflict, carrying out execution without affording judicial guarantees is also a violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime.”
Information conveyed by surviving victims and lawyers specialized in defending detainees confirms that what is happening in the courts is a perversion of justice and emptying it of its contents. For instance, some talked about the issuance of death sentences or harsh penalties by the Specialized Criminal Court in Sana'a in one session to detainees who had been disappearing for years in private prisons and / or procedures that do not meet the minimum standards for a fair trial, as part of the many rulings handed down by courts subject to the movement against hundreds of its opponents inside and outside prisons.
For example, in December of last year, the court handed down two death sentences against (19) political and educational figures from the Islah Party, including, principals of two educational schools Salem Dael and Mohd Hilal. In August 2021, it issued its verdict against (11) members of the Congress Party, including Mrs. Hanan Al-Shahezi and Altaf Al-Matari. In July 2017, it handed down a death sentence against (30) political and academic figures, including academics Youssef Al-Bawab and Nasr Al-Salami. And in March 2020, the court sentenced (35) members of the Yemeni parliament to death, in addition to confiscating the property of those who were able to flee Yemen.
Earlier in December 2021, t the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group executed (9) civilians on charges of killing the leader in the movement and the head of its political council, "Saleh al-Sammad." It is worth mentioning that the movement announced he had been killed by the “Arab Coalition” airstrike.
On the other hand, there is an alarming development pursued by the authorities of the Southern Transitional Council in Aden and the Yemeni government in Marib and Hadramout by presenting many political opponents and journalists before the Specialized Criminal Court and military courts in trials that lack guarantees of justice. The authority of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council brought opposition journalist Ahmed Maher to the Specialized Criminal Court on serious charges that may lead to the death penalty for expressing his opinion on the council's policies. Maher spoke from his confinement that during (6) successive sessions, the Bir Ahmed prison administration refused to transfer him to court under the pretext of not having a vehicle so that they can harm him and make him stay longer in prison. He declared a hunger strike until he was released or died in protest at the procedures imposed on him.
SAM for Rights and Liberties, an organization specialized in monitoring this type of violations, confirmed that the Ansar Allah movement sentenced more than (350) personalities to death, most of whom are opponents, government leaders, students, journalists, soldiers, academics, women and from other professional backgrounds. These include about (90) detainees in prisons. Furthermore, it issued harsh sentences against more than 150 individuals, some of whom were sentenced to 15 years in prison. More than (32) persons were brought to trial, including journalists and activists, by the orders of the Southern Transitional Council in Aden and the internationally recognized government in Marib and Hadramout, (5) of whom were sentenced to death in Marib.
The violation of the right to a fair trial practiced by the Ansar Allah movement is a matter of concern. The facts confirm that there are many victims who have been and are being denied this right in one way or another, and that there are many who have been convicted - and are being convicted - arbitrarily because the minimum conditions for fair trials are not met. Information indicates an increasing number of people subject to this type of trial, the most recent of which was the prosecution of a number of activists who were affiliated with the Ansar Allah movement on charges of incitement, disturbing social peace, and inciting public opinion against its policies.
The nature and trial procedures conducted by the courts subject to the movement suggest vindictive motives to harm detainees. The Specialized Criminal Court in Sana'a lacks legal legitimacy after transferring its powers to Marib by the Judicial Council of the recognized government, and the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group opponents, including activists and politicians, currently face an exceptional reality that lacks the minimum level of justice where the right to a fair trial before this court and respect for the presumption of innocence and other fundamental human rights were confiscated.
The organizations stress that the violations by Ansar Allah against activists and civilians violate the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1989, to which Yemen is party, and other laws that guarantee the right to life, physical integrity and a fair trial. Ansar Allah’s actions also violated the text of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006, which states that no one “shall be subjected to enforced disappearance” and emphasizes that the “ widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity.
The judiciary in Yemen is divided between the parties to the conflict, and the impact of what is known as the "justice system" in Sana'a on the courts in the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group Houthi areas, and the "Southern Judges Club", one of the arms of the Southern Transitional Council, on the courts in Aden are no secrets. The courts currently receive their directives clearly from these entities, in addition to the directives of the recognized government on the courts in Marib and Hadramout. It is not possible to build Yemenis' confidence in the justice system under such a situation. It is imperative for the parties to remove their guardianship from law enforcement institutions. We motivate international institutions interested in justice to start working for the reunification of the judiciary institution under a leadership acceptable to the Yemenis.
The legislative structure of Yemen contributed to helping the parties to the conflict to prosecute opponents by imposing the death penalty extravagantly on many acts under the name of state security crimes while a number of these acts mainly fall within the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Legislation related to death penalty should be redrafted, so that the death penalty is applied to the most serious murders and after a trial that meets the standards of fair, impartial and neutral litigation. The death penalty must be completely stopped in Yemen during the conflict due to its exploitation by warring parties to apply it to opponents and dissidents. The absence of criminal justice and impunity in Yemen have tempted the the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group Houthi movement, and then other parties, to commit more human rights violations, especially with regard to the violation of the right to justice and summary executions. In this context, the international community must assume its responsibilities in creating an international accountability mechanism in Yemen that works to curtail impunity.
We highly value the efforts of civil society, the families of the victims, and the lawyers who stand with the victims, and we stand alongside the movements that expose violations and press for access to justice, including “No Justice” campaign, which specializes in advocating for political prisoners and prisoners of conscious.
We call on the the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group to immediately stop political trials against detainees and opponents, apply a moratorium on executions and other penalties it issued, and release all detainees. We also stress on the Yemeni government the importance of adhering to international standards for trials and the release of activists and detainees in areas under its control and the control of the Southern Transitional Council.
The signatory organizations urge the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently intervene and:
Condemn the political trials of dozens of detained human rights defenders, journalists, academics and political prisoners in Yemen
Condemn in the strongest terms extrajudicial executions in Yemen.
Repeal the death sentences against Yemenis who have been arbitrarily detained and sentenced to death without a fair trial.
Demand that Ansar Allah puts an end to the use of death sentences without fair trial, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances, which constitute flagrant violations of Yemeni and international law.
Monitor the state of death penalties and executions closely in Yemen, especially focusing on the implementation of a series of death sentences handed down by the Specialized Criminal Court and other courts.
Call on competent local and international bodies to investigate the case in the wider context of arbitrary detentions and the use of torture to extract confessions.
Call on the international community to establish a criminally-focused investigative mechanism with a mandate to create case files to be used by competent prosecutorial authorities.
The signatory organizations
SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties
Victims of Torture Association
Yemeni Coalition For Monitoring Human Rights Violations
Abductees Mothers Association
American Center for Justice(ACJ)
Iraqi Warcrimes Documentation Center