Yemen: Urgent intervention needed to ensure release of four journalists detained and sentenced to death in Sana’a

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, reaffirming the fundamental principles of press freedom, the situation of journalists in Yemen remains precarious in the context of an ongoing war and the Covid-19 pandemic. Yemen was recently ranked 169 (out of 180 countries) in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

For Yemen, today marks a day of remembrance for journalists who have been deprived of their freedom or lives, and subjected to harassment, intimidation, and other forms of violence because of their work.[1]

Currently four journalists, Abdul Khaleq Imran, Akram Al Walidi, Harith Humaid, and Tawfiq Al Mansouri, remain detained since 9 June 2015 by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces and sentenced to death in Sana’a on 11 April 2020.

In 2020, the Public Prosecutor’s office indicted the journalists with “broadcasting false and malicious news, data and rumors, propaganda, and establishing several websites on the Internet and social networks where they broadcast news and false rumors in support of Saudi-led coalition crimes on Yemen,” basing their decision on articles 16, 21, 126 second, and 136 of the Penal Code (Law No. 12 of 1994 on crimes and penalties).

The proceedings lacked fair trial standards. To date, the detainees and their legal representation have not received access to the case files and court proceedings. Their lawyer, Abdelmajeed Sabra, stated that the journalists were subjected to physical and psychological torture while in detention. They were also threatened to be sentenced and excluded from the prisoner swap agreement.  The journalists were transferred to several prisons, the last of which was the Central Security Prison at the end of 2020. Their relatives have not been allowed to visit them until today. Moreover, the journalists were deprived of medical care. Tawfiq Al Mansouri has been denied medical treatment for his deteriorating and critical health condition.

On 15 October 2020, the four journalists were transferred from the Security and Intelligence Prison to the Exchange House, pending their release. They remain in the custody of Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces in a space where detainees are held pending a prisoner exchange, in the event of an exchange.

On 28 February and 29 March 2021, the Specialized Criminal Appeals Court in Sana’a held hearings in the absence of the four journalists, although a memorandum requesting their presence was delivered to the prosecution office. The Security Intelligence Service failed to implement the decision of the Specialized Criminal Appeals Court to release the four journalists and has not provided information on their fate.

The undersigned organizations are alarmed by the continued targeting of journalists, particularly the four cases mentioned above, and by the attacks on freedom of speech and expression in Yemen by all parties to the conflict. In light of the above, we urge:

  • The de facto authority Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces to urgently release the four journalists Abdul Khaleq Imran, Akram Al Walidi, Harith Humaid, and Tawfiq Al Mansouri, without any delay, as well as all individuals arbitrarily detained.
  • All parties to the conflict to stop targeting journalists, put an end to the practices of enforced disappearance, detention, and intimidation of journalists.
  • Special procedures to call for the release of the four journalists, in follow up to the communication sent to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces.
  • OHCHR to call for the release of the four journalists, in follow up to the urgent appeal issued on 25 May2020[2] to protect and release the four journalists.
  • Third states to ensure the protection of journalists carrying out important work in Yemen.
  • The Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen to continue monitoring the situation of journalists in Yemen and to call on all parties to the conflict to free arbitrarily detained journalists, human rights defenders, and activists.
  • The OHCHR to continue closely monitoring violations committed against journalists, address arbitrary detention in Yemen, and ensure that all parties to the conflict abide by international law.

Submitted by:

  • Mwatana
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

[1] Reports Covering Human Rights Violations Against Journalists in Yemen by Mwatana, Amnesty International, Gulf Center for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch.  See at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/05/yemen-journalists-at-risk-of-execution-must-be-freed-to-mark-world-press-freedom-day/ and https://civicus.contentfiles.net/media/uploads/key_analyses/file/2017/07/20/15_35_18/Yemen_Report_En._-_June_2017_.pdf
[2] Urgent Appeal addressed to the UN Special Procedure  (May 2020) See at: https://cihrs.org/urgent-appeal-to-the-un-special-procedures/?lang=en

This post is also available in: العربية

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