The statement issued by the Sam Organization for Rights and Liberties, a member of the Justice Pact Alliance in Yemen, on the second anniversary of the execution of ten individuals from Al-Hudaydah, expressed great concern among human rights activists and the families of the political victims who are still subject to sham trials. The statement highlighted the continued issuance of death sentences by Houthi supporters against political opponents through courts that lack fair trial standards, under the pretext of cooperation with the aggression. It emphasized that this raises serious concerns and opens the door to the role that the judiciary has come to play as a tool of political revenge. The statement called on the Houthi group to immediately stop issuing death sentences through a biased and non-independent judiciary.
The Houthi movement consistently ignores the calls from international and UN bodies, as well as human rights organizations, to halt the sham trials against political activists and journalists on political grounds. These trials often result in death sentences and confiscation of assets, lacking even the most basic standards of fair trials.
Since 2017 until now, the courts affiliated with the control of the Houthi group have issued approximately "550" death sentences against detainees on political grounds, accompanied by the confiscation of their assets. Some of these sentences were issued through summary proceedings with a minimal number of sessions, which did not ensure the court's verification of the names of the accused, let alone the charges against them. These trials have been accompanied by serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and torture.
On September 18, 2021, the Houthi militia carried out an execution operation targeting nine civilians, including a child, in Sana'a. Additionally, another individual died under torture. The victims were Ali Al-Qouzi, Abdulmalik Ahmed Hameed, Mohammed Khalid Al-Hajj, Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Qouzi, Mohammed Yahya Nuh, Ibrahim Mohammed Aqil, Mohammed Mohammed Al-Mashkhari, Abdulaziz Ali Al-Aswad, and Muath Abdulrahman Abdullah. The execution took place in a public square in the center of Sana'a, in front of a crowd and journalists, in a dehumanizing manner that showed a blatant disregard for the feelings of the victims, their families, the Yemeni society, and the international community. This occurred after a farcical trial that denied the accused their basic rights, violating international conventions and laws that guarantee the right to life, human dignity, justice, self-defense, and a fair trial.
Huda Al-Sarari, a human rights activist and lawyer, commented on the incident, stating that what happened to the people of Al-Hudaydah was an extrajudicial killing. The victims were denied legal representation, and the trial proceedings were conducted in an unlawful manner, depriving them of their right to access justice. The charges against them were pre-determined, as is often the case. In addition, they were subjected to torture and harsh treatment, evident from the visible signs of abuse. One of the victims was a minor who was unable to stand due to the severity of the torture. This incident constitutes a war crime and a stain on the history of this bloodthirsty group, particularly considering the violations and persecution it commits against the people of Tihama in particular.
The execution has indeed shocked the international community. The European Union, in a statement issued on September 20, 2021, pointed out "violations in the judicial process related to the death sentence and allegations of mistreatment." The United Nations Office stated that the legal proceedings did not appear to meet the requirements of a fair trial and due process under international law. The United States and the United Kingdom condemned the execution, describing it as "brutal." The Acting U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Yemen, Cathy Westley, stated that "this shameful act adds to the examples of the Houthis' disregard for basic human rights."
The "SAM" organization confirms that the trial phase was "formal" and witnessed continuous and unjustified restrictions on the defendants and their defense representatives. They were unable to exercise their right to a proper defense. The defendants were surprised by the Primary Court scheduling three consecutive sessions within just two weeks. When the defendants requested the judge's recusal due to the deliberate violation of their defense rights, as well as the judge's decision to change the charges and accusations contrary to the original indictment, the judge reserved the case for judgment before the defendants and their defense representatives could submit any defense memorandum or present their defense evidence.
The execution of the death sentence has caused shock both locally and internationally. Prior to the execution, the victims were deprived of their last meeting with their families. The Houthi group subjected the victims to humiliation and psychological torture before their execution. One of the victims expressed in his final message to his family, "Raise your heads high, for this is God's judgment and fate for me to
The impact of that horrifying incident on the victims, especially children and women, still lingers in the minds of Yemenis and their families. Yemenis will remember it with great pain. It is imperative for everyone to unite in order to put an end to the farcical trial process and halt all death sentences against political activists. Laws that are exploited for revenge against individuals with political and intellectual opinions should be amended. One of the relatives of the victim, Abdulmalik, says, "The family's feelings after losing him are not limited to the harm inflicted upon his children or siblings. The entire family knows Abdulmalik Humaid and how he was with all of them. It is an indescribable feeling, as he was imprisoned for three years and six months of enforced disappearance and subjected to torture. The psychological state is still severely deteriorated from what happened or even just by thinking about it. But Allah protects the hearts, and He will establish the truth, both in this life and the Hereafter, and exact revenge on those responsible. As Allah says, 'Indeed, you are to die, and indeed, they are to die. Then indeed you, on the Day of Resurrection, before your Lord, will dispute.'
SAM believes that the reassurance of the Houthi movement and other parties in escaping punishment, the complete absence of international criminal investigation mechanisms, and the fragility of local accountability mechanisms have greatly contributed to their innovation of methods of revenge and harm against their opponents, including the use of the judiciary as a means of arbitrary deprivation of the right to life and freedom. The Yemeni legislative framework has encouraged parties to commit these violations by imposing the death penalty on various acts, many of which stem from the right to freedom of expression. The organization affirms that it is time to change this legislative system to ensure the abolition of the death penalty except for the most serious crimes, such as murder. The Houthi movement and other parties should freeze the death penalty for detainees in cases related to the conflict.
The organization emphasizes that the actions carried out by the Houthi group against the nine individuals are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee rights and obligations including the right to life, physical integrity, and fair trial. These actions also violate the provisions 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 widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity. The organization affirms that the execution process also violates the principles of international law, considering the implementation of the death penalty as a direct act of killing outside the framework of the law, which is deemed a war crime and a crime against humanity falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
The organization concluded its statement by calling on the international community to exercise its moral and legal role by exerting pressure on the Houthi group to cease its criminal practices against civilians in the areas under its control. It urged the fulfillment of the demands of the victims' families and the necessity of holding all those involved in the execution and killing of the nine individuals accountable through criminal justice. The organization pointed out that the continued unjustified silence of the international community reinforces the propensity of the conflicting parties to persist in violating the rights of individuals, especially with the ongoing policy of impunity resulting from the international community's failure, particularly its judicial institutions, to fulfill their legal responsibilities.