Politicized judiciary sentences Yemenis to death without due process

Politicization of death sentences issued by Houthi-affiliated court

Tuesday, June 11, 2024
Politicized judiciary sentences Yemenis to death without due process

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and the Gulf Center for Human Rights call on the government of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group to revoke all death sentences issued by the Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa against 44 Yemeni citizens, immediately release them, and drop the charges against them. The Yemeni defendants are charged with communicating with the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and are undergoing an unfair trial without any respect to the minimum standards of due process.

According to Mwatana, 11 out of the 44 Yemenis sentenced to death were forcibly disappeared and detained incommunicado in April 2020, for periods ranging from five to seven months. The families of the disappeared were unable to learn of their location and communicate with them during this period. The families were later informed that their disappeared relatives are held at the security and intelligence headquarters in Sanaa.

A sibling of one of the detainees said, “When an armed group in civilian clothes arrested my brother, they called him, an ‘ISIS member’, and forced him into a vehicle parked on the opposite side of the street.” He continued, “We later learned that the kidnappers were from the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, and that a similar arrest campaign had targeted others in the same neighborhood. Of course, we did not ask about him in government departments because we knew that we would be exposed to financial extortion, as families of other detainees faced.”

According to the defense lawyer, numerous violations marred the arrest, detention, and trial procedures, challenging the validity of the rulings issued in this trial amid an absence of evidence supporting the accusations, and a violation of all guarantees and rights of the defense to a fair trial. The defendants faced illegal enforced disappearance during their detention. The prosecution further dominated the trial proceedings in pleading while the defendants were unable to exercise their right to defense. The judge has been issuing rulings over the phone in numerous recent political cases, without evidence or a draft explaining the reasons for the ruling in the judge’s handwriting. The defendants’ lawyer commented on this issue: “The judge’s delivery of the ruling over the phone raises suspicion and doubt about the possibility that these rulings and their wordings could be issued by a party other than the court.”

Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, stated “Since the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group seized power, the group has been utilizing the Specialized Criminal Court as a weapon of systematic oppression and abuse, in complete obstruction of legal procedures and in flagrant contradiction with local and international fair trial guarantees.”

On 18 September 2021, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group carried out a death sentence against nine Yemenis, issued by the Specialized Criminal Court in a trial lacking the minimum conditions for a fair trial. While in an exchange of detainees with the internationally recognized government, the Houthis released four journalists after the criminal court issued a death sentence against them: Akram al-Walidi, Abdelkhaleq Amran, Hareth Hamid, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri.

The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group uses the Specialized Criminal Court and death sentences in the ongoing conflict in Yemen as a tool of abuse and repression to achieve its political and other interests. Most of the death sentences issued by the criminal court are accompanied by a ruling to confiscate the assets and property of the accused. These rulings further reinforce the Houthis’ desired gains against their political opponents in areas under its control, to ensure that any type of peaceful opposition is intimidated, silenced, and eliminated.

On 1 June 2024, the Specialized Criminal Court issued a death sentence and froze the assets and property of Adnan al-Harazi (51 years old), founder and director of the company Prodigy Systems Inc., which has worked since 2006 in the technical, monitoring and evaluation field as an independent body for relief work done by organizations and United Nations agencies. Al-Harazi faced accusations of “participating in a criminal agreement with those working for the benefit of the Saudi-Emirati aggression, seeking and communicating with a foreign country in a state of war with Yemen, namely the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and contracting with international organizations and governmental bodies (the American Maestral International, the World Bank, the British Council, the Dutch University of Maastricht) affiliated with these countries.”

“The accusation of espionage has become the preferred tool of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group to eliminate opponents or tighten control over its areas of influence. The only way to stop such a serious violation is to open an urgent, independent and international investigation into crimes committed, and to ensure complete independence of the judiciary by immediately halting the use of the courts in political disputes,” said Amna Guellali, Research Director at CIHRS.

Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, stated, “While condemning these unjust rulings issued by a court lacking the minimum standards for a fair trial and due legal procedures, we adhere to our demand for the necessity and urgency of revoking these death sentences, stopping their implementation, and compensating the accused for the psychological, physical, and material damage they have suffered throughout the period of disappearance, detention and trial.”

The three signatory organizations of this statement (Mwatana, CIHRS, and the Gulf Center) call on the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group to immediately revoke all death sentences issued by the Specialized Criminal Court and to stop using the court to continuously attack the right to life. The undersigned call for an immediate end to the politicization of  the judiciary and the infringement of its independence, together with an end to practices that seek to  control, abuse and intimidate innocent citizens. We further underscore the need for urgent reforms in the judicial system controlled by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group to ensure that judicial institutions regain their ability to conduct fair trials. The judicial institution must be completely separate from political purposes and spheres of influence, enabling it to become independent and just.