Repressive Judiciary in Yemen: Houthi Authorities Sentence 45 Civilians to Death
  • 03/06/2024
    SAM |

    Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that the Houthi authorities sentenced, on Saturday, June 1, 2024, 45 Yemenis to death on various charges, including collaborating with the "Saudi-Emirati aggression" countries, providing coordinates, and participating in assassination cells targeting Houthi figures and leaders. This incident reveals the severe dysfunction in the judicial system and demonstrates how the Houthis are using the judiciary as a tool for suppression and settling scores, exposing the extent of the oppression and arbitrary treatment exercised by the Houthi authorities against Yemenis in the areas under their control.

    SAM Organization quoted the defendants' lawyer, "Abdulmajeed Sabra", as saying that the detainees in this case "were subjected to the most severe forms of physical and psychological torture and were forcibly disappeared in solitary confinement cells for a full nine months, three months of which were in Dhamar, and the rest in the capital Sanaa, during which they were deprived of visits, communication, and healthcare, and the court did not ensure their right to a fair trial.

    Lawyer Sabra stated that he was forced to withdraw from the case at the beginning of the trial sessions, as the court did not provide him with a complete picture of the case files and did not present any defenses for the detainees as a result. He pointed out that "the Houthi group is exploiting this court to achieve political gains at the expense of humanitarian cases", in his words.

    The statement emphasized that the 44 victims who were arbitrarily sentenced to death were arrested in April and May of 2020 from multiple governorates, primarily Sanaa, Dhamar, and Amran, and were subjected to cruel torture.

    The statement highlighted that among the accused is the director of "Prodegy Systems" company, engineer "Adnan Ali Husayn Al-Harazi", who was sentenced to death by the Houthi authorities and had his company and assets confiscated on fabricated charges related to collaborating with foreign countries.

    The Specialized Criminal Prosecution Office in the capital Sana'a, which is under Houthi control, convicted Al-Harazi on charges of participating in a criminal agreement with those working for the benefit of the "Saudi-Emirati aggression", and of collaborating with a foreign state at war with Yemen, namely the United States and the United Kingdom. The charges allege that he contracted with international organizations and government entities affiliated with those countries in order to collect accurate statistical data on the social, economic, political, geographic, and military situation in the Republic of Yemen, according to the indictment.

    SAM stated that the background of the incident goes back to the Houthi militia's closure of the Prodigy Systems company on January 11, 2023. Prodigy Systems was working as an intermediary between international relief organizations and the local community. The Houthis also looted all the computers and servers that contained information about the displaced and those affected by the war in various governorates.

    SAM stated that the company was operating legally and had obtained all the necessary licenses, as the organization reviewed several permits issued in multiple governorates that allowed the company to conduct its work. She indicated that the information obtained confirmed that the company's last permit was obtained from the Supreme Council for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on 09/01/2023, which was two days before the raid.

    One of the legal experts, who preferred not to mention his name, commented on the court's ruling in the case of "Adnan Al-Harazi" in a statement to SAM organization:

    The court acquitted "Adnan" of the first charge, but the second charge is also a fabricated one, just like the first one. He explained that "Al-Harazi" became a victim for standing up against some corrupt forces and refusing what he was being bargained with, and for submitting a file to the Anti-Corruption Authority, which led to the fabrication of charges against him and the forced closure and seizure of his company.

    The legal expert also pointed out that the "Prodigy Systems" company, which is managed by "Al-Harazi", was tasked with carrying out supervisory work as a third party on humanitarian projects, with the government represented in them along with the World Bank and other donor agencies, and they were implemented by government entities. He then questioned: How can that be considered "unlawful communication and contact with foreign countries" if the charges attributed to Adnan were not fabricated in the first place?

    The expert affirmed that those allegations, which were all refuted by the defense team for Al-Harazi, were fabricated with the purpose of removing the man's company and seizing it, in order to enable other companies affiliated with the entrenched corrupt forces to carry out the work of "Prodigy" company. According to his statement, these other companies are now actually performing the work of the Al-Harazi's company.

    One of the detainee "Adnan's" relatives described the ruling as unjust, and said in an interview with SAM that it was issued by corrupt and influential judges, stressing that the ruling was not based on any evidence or grounds that could constitute even the slightest conviction of the defendant.

    SAM then reviewed posts in which the defendant's wife spoke about the circumstances and procedures of his trial, citing a statement made by Dr. Yahya Yahya Muhammad Al-Mutawakkel, Professor of Economics at Sana'a University, during the 18th session. He pointed out that Prodigy Company had requested his general opinion on a business environment assessment project, which is part of the accusations against Prodigy Company. This project was implemented by various entities, including the Social Development Fund in 2020, a fact that Dr. Al-Mutawakkel later confirmed during his testimony.

    Dr. Yahya affirmed that the damages resulting from the publication of the business environment assessment were to be borne by the concerned authorities, who should have reviewed the forms and questionnaires in advance through their representatives in government agencies.

    Regarding whether dealing with the World Bank and international organizations is considered espionage and divulging confidentiality, he pointed out that all United Nations organizations are similar to embassies, as there are rules governing the work of each of them. Dealing with these organizations does not constitute espionage if it is done within the framework of the assigned work, in accordance with the contract concluded with the company through the Supreme Council for Humanitarian Affairs, which approves and allows the implementation of such contracts.

    When Dr. Yahya Yahya Al-Mutawakkel was asked about the danger of this information to the Yemeni economy, he affirmed that it is not dangerous information, but rather part of what any country needs to develop future economic plans to help conduct studies on the economic environment for the implementation of large or small projects. Therefore, this information has strategic importance for economic growth and infrastructure development in Yemen.

    The wife of Al-Harrazi pointed out that after the completion of Dr. Yahya Al-Mutawakkel's testimony, the prosecution justified not bringing the rest of the witnesses, which has put them in the predicament of acknowledging the existence of the witnesses that they had previously denied.

    She noted that the prosecutor and member of the prosecution, Khaled Omar, claimed in his argument that the defendant and the lawyers had confessed to the charges against them, and he then went on to demand that the court adjourn the case to impose the harshest possible sentence on the defendant, which is the death penalty.

    She asked: If we had really confessed, then why are we continuing the trial until the 18th session? And why has the judge not issued his verdict before based on the confession?

    She added: They no longer have any charges against Adnan, as they have all been refuted by the defense team, and it has been proven that they have tampered with the evidence and witnesses, not to mention the obstacles they are putting in our way.

    She mentioned that at the end of the session, the lawyer argued that the court had obliged the prosecution in the previous session to bring the witnesses or obtain written statements from their places of employment, which they failed to do. This, she said, amounted to an acknowledgment of what the defendant Adnan Al-Harrazi had confirmed about his innocence. If the matter was otherwise, she added, the prosecution, which is searching for any charge against him, even a malicious one, would not have delayed.

    She continued that the defense had emphasized that Brodje Company's projects are carried out within the licenses and permits of Scemcha, and if the engineer Adnan must be tried on any charge, then the government of Yemen and all the organizations and all the companies that are doing the same work as Brodje, including the companies to which Brodje's work was entrusted after the raid and closure of the company, must be included in the dock as well.

    She stated that Adnan emphasized at the end of the session that the economic expert, Dr. Yahya Al-Mutawakil, had explained to the court that the Business Environment project does not constitute communication with the outside world, nor does it pose an economic threat to the homeland. Rather, it came within the framework of economic, financial, and administrative reform of the country, and not the opposite. What the prosecution has done in demonizing the work and considering it a threat to national security are mere malicious accusations and fabrications.

    Qasim reported that the prosecution representative "Hilal Al-Obaidi" denied the existence of the witnesses during the seventeenth session held on April 27, 2024. He used sarcastic language, declaring derisively "that he does not have time to search for the witnesses on the streets." He also claimed that one of the witness names was not real and did not exist in reality.

    She added: "At that moment, the lawyer opened his notebook and read out the names of the four witnesses and the addresses of each of them. The lawyer then requested that the prosecution provide an official written denial of the existence of the witnesses, which the prosecution had not dared to do since the first day they denied the existence of the witnesses we had proposed.

    She continued: Regarding the absence of the witness Ibrahim Al-Hamli, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Humanitarian Affairs "SCMSA", the prosecution stated that his presence was not necessary, as a statement submitted by him was attached as a substitute for his appearance in the courtroom. She considered it was clear from the wording of the statement that it was not the first one, as the statement referenced the existence of a previous memorandum.

    And it was shown: When the lawyer asked the prosecution: Why was the first memo sent by the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council, Ibrahim Al-Hamli, not attached? The content of which was in favor of the engineer Adnan Al-Harazi, the prosecution did not deny concealing it, as the prosecution representative admitted that they concealed the initial statement after a telephone conversation between him and the prosecutor.

    The prosecutor informed the prosecution representative of the content of the first memo during that call, and Hilal Al-Obaydi said that he replied to him verbatim: "No, this memo cannot be attached", and they agreed to conceal it, justifying his action by saying: "For the sake of justice.

    Regarding the suffering of the detainee Adnan Al-Harazi, Nada Qasim said that her helpless husband can no longer bear patience after all that he has been through. After hearing the language of arrogance, disdain, and mockery from the prosecution representatives, and then the admission of the enormity of concealing the statement with all impudence and justifying their crime by saying "for the sake of justice", she added:

    We heard Adnan say to the judge: "I have been in solitary confinement for a year and four months and I can no longer bear more of this.. I want a verdict. So far, there have been 17 sessions and the witnesses have not been brought in order to procrastinate and exhaust the company." And here they began to try to silence him.

    Nada adds: I cannot hide from you, the sound of Adnan's voice still echoes in my ears, and the image of him hitting the bars of the cage with his hands is etched in my eyes, squeezing my heart with pain and sorrow. Despite his defeated voice, he was able to clarify with full clarity that the reason for his presence behind those bars is the corruption files that were revealed to him, and the influential people fear their exposure against them, so they preemptively imprisoned him and directed malicious and fabricated charges against him.

    On May 11th, his sister Sharifa said that Adnan has been in solitary confinement for more than a year and a few months, explaining that he was initially kept in solitary confinement since his arrest on January 11, 2023, until the first trial sessions began on August 19 of the same year. She added: We thought that the solitary confinement would stop after the case reached the court, but that did not happen. They continued to keep him in the solitary cell in order to break his will and weaken him, perhaps betting that this would affect the soundness of his mind and that he would appear in the court sessions as if he were disturbed. But God protected him, and we saw him respond rationally, explaining and refuting everything that was directed against him.

    Sharifa al-Harazi mentioned that the process of taking her brother Adnan out of the solitary confinement cell was only to attend the court sessions, and then he would be returned to it without mercy or compassion. This continued until the number of days he spent in solitary confinement reached around 425 days, as he was confined alone.

    SAM reviewed a publication in which legal counsel Luqman stated that the prosecution had issued a decision and directed the Attorney General more than a year ago to open and operate the company and it was not implemented, then followed by the court's decision to open and operate it five months ago and was not implemented.

    It was pointed out that the company operates in the field of monitoring and evaluating humanitarian aid projects under the supervision and control of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, and the Supreme Council for Humanitarian Affairs, like other companies working in this field. He added that for unknown reasons and motives, the company and its chairman are being targeted selectively and arbitrarily. The company was raided, and the security authorities seized control of it and arrested its chairman, and its employees were dismissed. They searched for fabricated charges in the company's project documents and reports, and referred it to the judiciary, which had previously issued a ruling in favor of Al-Harazi, but due to pressures, it did not uphold its prestige or its decisions.

    In a previous report by the organization titled "Without Justice", SAM concluded that there are many facts that reveal that the Ansar Allah ("Houthis") movement has used the judiciary excessively to take revenge on political opponents and/or those believed to be adversaries. This has become a new methodology under the strategy adopted by the parties to the conflict - especially the Houthis - to subjugate the Yemenis by force and suppress any activities within the political and civil space. In pursuit of this, hundreds of detainees and hundreds of political and governmental figures have been put on trial in areas under Houthi control.

    The organization believes that the death sentences issued by courts under the control of the Houthi movement have been issued through summary procedures and can be described as arbitrary executions, as they disregard the minimum standards of fair trial applicable in armed conflicts and/or normal circumstances.

    The detainees were deprived of the right to equality, as the prosecutor, for example, was treated as representing the Houthi movement. Their right to defense and/or access to evidence, as well as the ability to consult with a lawyer or communicate with one if available, was violated. Their demands to investigate torture and coerced confessions were rejected. They were treated as convicted rather than presumed innocent.

    Additionally, their right to be tried before an independent, impartial, and legally constituted court was violated. The sentences were issued by courts whose procedures are described as exceptional, and whose judges are politically biased.

    The specialized criminal court under the control of the Houthi movement issued such sentences. This court is devoid of jurisdiction after it was transferred to Marib in April 2018 from the judiciary council recognized by the legitimate government. Its rulings have no legal value, and the executed death sentences it issued constitute extrajudicial killings.

    SAM has strongly condemned the sentences issued against the defendants, including the engineer "Adnan Al-Harrazi", pointing out that the trial proceedings were motivated by political factors and were marred by serious legal flaws. The accusations were primarily based on fabricated, malicious charges. The defendants were not enabled to exercise their legal rights, including the right to have a lawyer defend them. This clearly indicates a premeditated intent and determination to convict the defendants for crimes they did not commit.

    At the end of its statement, SAM called on the Houthi group to stop its practices that undermine the judicial system and turn it into a trap to settle scores and trap their political opponents, calling on the de facto authorities to immediately release the detainee "Adnan Al-Harazi" unconditionally, and to cancel the death sentences against all defendants, immediately.

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