Forcibly Disappeared Baha’is

A Call to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) Armed Group to Immediately Release the Forcibly Disappeared Baha’is

Monday, September 4, 2023
Forcibly Disappeared Baha’is

Mwatana for Human Rights stated today, Sunday, September 3, 2023, that the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group must immediately release 16 Yemeni Baha'is, including five women, who have been subjected to force disappearance since their arrest by the group in late May 2023 in violation of Yemeni national law and international human rights law. The Baha’is were detained after the Houthis raided a house in Sana'a on Thursday, May 25, 2023. All detained individuals were taken to an undisclosed location without releasing any information about their fate or referral for prosecution.

Radhya Al-Mutawakel, the Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, emphasized, "The ongoing persecution of the Baha'i minority in Yemen must come to an end. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group must abide by their legal and moral responsibilities to all individuals in areas under their control, refraining from persecuting them."

Based on testimonies gathered by Mwatana, on Thursday morning, May 25, 2023, around 10:30 a.m., an armed unit affiliated with Ansar Allah's Security and Intelligence Service, comprising four buses and seven military vehicles, including two armored vehicles, transported over 40 masked individuals dressed in black uniforms with gray dots. Accompanied by female police officers, this force cordoned off a Baha'i residence in Sana'a. They proceeded to conduct an extensive search of the premises, seizing numerous books, phones, and laptops. By approximately 4:00 p.m., the unit departed, taking with them Baha'is who had been inside the house during the raid. No arrest warrant was presented, and the grounds for the arrest were left unspecified.

Since the day after their detention, Mwatana has submitted memoranda to the Attorney General and the specialized prosecutor’s office in Sana’a, requesting the immediate release of the Baha'is who have been forcibly disappeared in violation of Yemeni laws and relevant international treaties.

On June 4, 2023, one of the forcibly disappeared individuals was released for health reasons, and on July 10, 2023, another was allowed a visit at the security and intelligence facility. However, the rest remain subjected to forced disappearance as of the writing of this statement.

This incident is part of a broader pattern of violations against the Baha’i minority in Yemen. In 2016, the Houthis arrested 65 individuals, mostly Baha’i followers in Sana’a, including men, women, and children. In the later stages of 2017, the Houthis also launched arrest campaigns against Baha’is at different times. In early 2018, the Special Criminal Court in Sana’a, under the control of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, sentenced Hamed Haydara, a Baha’i in Yemen, to death and ordered the confiscation of his assets, subsequently closing Baha’i institutions in Yemen. After years of arbitrary detention, all detained Baha’is were released on the condition of permanently leaving Yemen.

Yemeni laws, including the Yemeni Constitution and relevant legislation, prohibit the arrest of any individual without a valid arrest warrant issued by a competent legal authority. They also require judicial authorities, including security agencies, to refer evidence collection and investigation reports related to detainees to the public prosecutor within twenty-four hours of their arrest. The public prosecutor is then obliged to immediately order the release of any individual detained without legal justification or issue a detention order for up to seven days for investigation purposes, provided there is a legal basis for detention. Yemeni law further mandates that judicial authorities enable detainees to inform their families of their place of detention upon arrest and guarantees their right to legal representation. Additionally, Yemeni law prohibits the search of individuals, entry into their homes, inspection of postal correspondence, or recording of wiretapped or personal conversations without a warrant issued by the public prosecutor during investigations or by a judge during trial.

International conventions criminalize enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and discrimination based on religion or other grounds. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensures freedom of belief, equality before the law without any discrimination, freedom of expression and participation, and the right to protection against arbitrary detention. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance underscores the gravity of the crime of enforced disappearance and emphasizes the prohibition of enforced disappearance in all circumstances.

Mwatana reiterates its call to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group for the prompt release of the Baha'is and an immediate end to their unlawful persecution. Mwatana also stresses that all security agencies under the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group’s authority must abide by Yemeni laws in all circumstances, and advocates that the public prosecutor's office should have greater oversight of all detention facilities without any exceptions.