Hundreds of Yemenis were subjected to arrests, physical assaults, and gunfire by Houthi forces during the celebration of the 26th of September Revolution. This is part of a policy of repression and terrorism practiced by the group against the exercise of freedom of expression and opinion. Such actions constitute a violation of the Yemeni Republic's constitution and international laws that guarantee freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The group is urged to immediately release all detainees without conditions or restrictions.
Geneva - The SAM organization stated that hundreds of Yemenis have been subjected to beatings, gunfire, and detention in several Yemeni cities by armed forces affiliated with the Houthi group. These acts occurred during their celebration of the anniversary of the September 26 revolution, as part of the group's policy of suppression and terrorism against the exercise of freedom of expression and opinion. These actions constitute a violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Yemen and international laws that guarantee freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The Houthi group is urged to immediately release all detainees unconditionally.
Videos circulating on social media showed armed forces affiliated with the Houthi group, some in civilian clothes and others in security forces' uniforms, using excessive force against celebratory processions of Yemeni civilians in Sana'a and Ibb, beating and shooting and placing thousands in police station prisons under the pretext of inciting riots.
The attacks began when individuals affiliated with the Houthi group started assaulting anyone carrying the Yemeni flag, forcibly removing those flags from citizens' vehicles. They engaged in brutal attacks against individuals, throwing flags on the ground, and then proceeded to fire shots into the air. This escalated into clashes between the celebrants and members of the Houthi group, leading to the arrest and injury of hundreds of civilians.
According to the organization's field monitoring of news, Yemeni lawyers and activists have reported confirmed information regarding the Houthi group's arrest of over a thousand young men in Sana'a who participated in commemorating the September 26 revolution. Several provinces have witnessed armed Houthi militants assaulting participants and threatening further arrests. Lawyer Abdulmajid Sabrah, who has been leading a team of lawyers defending detainees held by the Houthis for years, mentioned in a Facebook post that there are approximately a thousand detainees held in police stations in the capital city of Sana'a, including 20 detainees in the Jamal Jameel Police Station in the Al-Tahrir District.
Sabrah further explained that he and his colleagues went to monitor the situation of the detainees. When they inquired about the reason for not releasing the detainees, despite previous promises of their release, the Houthis responded that they were being held pending criminal investigation in the capital city of Sana'a. They also claimed to have the detainees' phones in their possession and stated that they expect to release them following the Houthi celebration of the Prophet's birthday.
Lawyer Sabrah quoted the police department's director as saying, "There are approximately a thousand detainees held in police stations in the capital due to their raising of the national flag. The department director justified these arrests by claiming that those individuals were involved in "chaotic acts" and that they were being influenced by external parties." In his statement, the lawyer emphasized that he met with some of the detainees who informed him that the reason for their detention was their raising of the republican flag. They stated that they were subjected to mistreatment without having caused any chaos, as claimed by the Houthi police officials. Furthermore, they reported that their phones were confiscated by the Houthi criminal investigation authorities after being forced to disable their passwords, and their phones remain in the possession of Houthi members.
In a related context, lawyer Samah Subai' in her testimony about the attacks carried out by the Houthi group stated, "At exactly 9:38 p.m. on the night of September 26, which was and will always be the greatest and holiest in the hearts of Yemenis, after a roundabout called 'Asr' at a distance of about one hundred meters, a military convoy consisting of approximately eight individuals, the majority of whom were wearing civilian attire while one of them was wearing military uniform, attacked me, those with me, and the girls inside my car. One of the girls was not even fifteen years old, and she was the one the military personnel initially targeted in an attempt to snatch the flag from her, but they failed initially. They then returned for a second time, approaching us closely to the point of almost colliding with other cars. This time, the military personnel from within the convoy managed to seize the flag of the Republic of Yemen. They exerted all their strength to throw the Yemeni flag beneath their feet and trample on it while shouting with those accompanying them. I believe it would have been more appropriate for them to provide the screams of joy for the liberation of Jerusalem instead."
She added, "I thought the matter had ended there, but then a woman driving a black car adorned with green decorations insulted us with immoral words that a decent woman would not utter. Meanwhile, she incited the convoy in front of her against us. Amidst these events, it was not enough for them to seize my flag and the flag of those with me! One of them continued to chase someone who was riding a motorcycle and forcefully snatched the flag from him, while they, in a hysterical manner, shouted in triumph over their victory against that flag. Furthermore, they referred to anyone carrying the flag of the Republic of Yemen as traitors!"
She concluded her testimony by saying, "This was not the only attack. We were also assaulted while celebrating in the Flag Roundabout (previously known as Rimas), where we were pelted with stones, some of which had the potential to cause death. My faith, beliefs, and my identity are all intertwined with this day, September 26, 1962."
In turn, the SAM organization expressed its condemnation and rejection of the organized and serious attack carried out by members of the Houthi group against the celebrants from the provinces of Sana'a, Ibb, and other provinces. It emphasized that peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression are guaranteed according to the provisions of the Yemeni Constitution, as well as international law, which includes numerous articles affirming this right, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, especially Article 19, which unequivocally guarantees and protects this right.
The organization also added that the observed arbitrary arrest operations constitute a complete crime, especially since these arrests were conducted outside the framework of the law and without judicial authorization. This means that the Houthi group is condemned for kidnapping around 1,000 individuals who are currently deprived of their right to defend themselves or communicate with their families. This condemns the Houthi group for committing widespread and systematic crimes.
The organization emphasizes that the actions carried out by members of the Houthi group go beyond depriving individuals of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It constitutes a serious and unjustifiable crime that reveals the criminal and retaliatory mentality of the Houthi group. They exploited the gathering of thousands of individuals during an important national occasion to exert their authority, arrogance, and ideologies that show a complete disregard for respecting individual rights and the sanctity of national events.
SAM also emphasizes that the Houthi group repeatedly proves that it is far from its claims of intending to end the conflict in Yemen. These attacks provide a glimpse into the behavior of the group, which is being engaged in dialogue in Riyadh to reach a lasting solution in Yemen. The organization points out that the Houthi group has a record filled with thousands of incidents, including unlawful arrests and attacks on civilians, including women and children.
SAM concluded its statement by calling on the Houthi group to cease its brutal attacks and release all detainees. It urged the group to instruct its members to respect the rights of individuals to express their opinions and engage in peaceful assembly. The organization emphasized that the Houthi group should be held accountable for all individuals involved in the acts of aggression and unlawful arrests, and they should face fair trials for their serious violations of Yemeni and international law.