Geneva – Four Yemeni journalists, detained for more than seven years and sentenced to death by the Houthi group, should be released unconditionally, and their death sentences should be abolished, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said Wednesday in a statement calling for respecting freedom of journalistic work.
After physical and psychological torture in detention and a trial that lacked due legal procedures, a Houthi-run court sentenced journalists Tawfiq Al-Mansoori, Akram Al-Walidy, Abdul-Khaleq Omran, and Harith Hamid to death in April 2020 on charges of collaborating with the Arab coalition.
All concerned parties should intervene to stop the execution that may be carried out at any moment, especially since the Houthis’ have executed many civilians illegally. Last September, they executed nine persons accused of cooperation with the Arab coalition.
The Houthi group severely restricts journalistic work in the areas it controls. Many opposing media headquarters in the capital Sana’a—including television channels, radio stations, newspapers, and websites—were closed, and some of their workers were detained. Afraid for their safety, many journalists had to flee the country and work from abroad.
Since its takeover of the capital and other governorates, the Houthi group has turned the judiciary into a tool to silence critical and opposing voices. Between 2015 and 2021, its courts issued more than 250 death sentences against political opponents, academics, and journalists, according to SAM for Rights and Liberties.
On 23 February, the Houthi-run Specialized Criminal Court in Sana'a sentenced three Yemenis, including a private school principal, to death after more than six years of detention on charges of forming a security cell whose mission was to carry out offensive attacks against Houthi members.
According to a number of people familiar with the case, the detainees were subjected to forced disappearance, physically and psychologically tortured, and tried under illegal procedures.
Euro-Med Monitor's Chief Media Officer, Nour Olwan, said: “It is unfortunate that journalists fall victims to extreme judicial decisions that have no sound legal basis. Not only did the Houthis restrict their freedom to work as journalists, they dared to directly target their lives as punishment for their legitimate work.”
“It is unacceptable for the Houthi group to continue to control the fate of the innocent by controlling the judiciary and issuing unfair rulings without following proper legal procedures. The judiciary should remain independent and not be used to retaliate against political opponents.”
Euro-Med Monitor renews its total rejection of the application of the death penalty in all circumstances, as it robs the most basic human right, which is the right to life. And once the carried out, it cannot in any way be undone.
The Houthi group should unconditionally release the four journalists and all political detainees in its prisons and cancel all unfair judicial rulings passed by its courts since its control of the capital Sana'a, especially the death sentences imposed on journalists and political opponents.
Euro-Med Monitor asks the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to pressure the Houthi group to abolish the death sentences against the four journalists and all opposition activists and give the issue special attention in his regular meetings with the group in Sana'a.