Yemen: Death sentence for feminist activist following unfair trial

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) condemns the sentencing, on 5 December 2023, to the death penalty of feminist activist Fatma al-Arwali,  after a trial marred by gross violations of her due process rights. Al-Arwali should be freed and her sentence overturned.

“Today’s verdict is an insult to justice. This was a trial marred by enforced disappearance and utter disregard for fair trial rights. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group denied al-Arwali access to her lawyer and she was banned from seeing her family for months. She was reportedly detained in cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Amna Guellali, research director at CIHRS.

Fatma al-Arwali, the President of the Yemen section of the Arab League’s Women Leadership Union, was arrested by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group security forces in al Hawban area, in Ta’iz governorate on 13 August 2022, as she was returning to Yemen from the UAE. Her lawyer, Abdelmajid Sabra, told CIHRS that she was forcibly disappeared for six months, with her family unable to determine her whereabouts. On 31 July 2023, a prosecutor in Sanaa charged her with treason and aiding UAE in waging war against Yemen, which are charges typically used to prosecute activists and human rights defenders without evidence of wrongdoing. During her entire pre-trial detention, which lasted 16 months, she was held incommunicado and denied her right to family visits, and was never assisted by a lawyer, which is a grave breach of her right to a fair trial.

On 19 September, during al-Arwali’s first trial session before the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group-run Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa, which handles ‘terrorism’ and ‘state security’ cases, and is notorious for holding sham trials on bogus espionage charges, security agents forced her lawyer, who had for the first time the opportunity to talk to her briefly, out of the courtroom when he tried to plead her case, thus denying her right to legal counsel. During the same session, al-Arwali told the court that she was detained in inhumane conditions, in an underground cell without “seeing the sun for a year.”

“Fatma al-Arwali’s case is yet more proof that incommunicado detention, inhumane treatment and the flagrant denial of fair trial guarantees on nebulous charges are part of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group’s routine repertoire for targeting human rights activists,” Guellali added

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