On 9 July 2019, thirty academics and political figures, facing what Amnesty International has described as “trumped-up charges,” were sentenced to death by the Houthi-run Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Sana’a.
Since the Houthi authorities gained de facto control of the judiciary in 2015, they have increasingly used the SCC to target religious minorities, political opponents or even just critics, according to Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Research Lynn Maalouf. In September 2018, for example, 24 Yemenis who are members of the Baha’I faith – among them 8 women and a child – were accused of charges that carry the death penalty by the SCC.
Out of the thirty-six people on trial on July 9 2019, thirty were sentenced to death based on charges including espionage for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. They are mainly academics, trade unionists, and preachers. Among them is Youssef al-Bawab, a 45-year-old linguistics professor, political figure, and father of five; he had previously been arbitrarily arrested in 2016 and charged in April 2017 alongside 35 others.
The legal proceedings since these 36 were charged have been seriously flawed as they included enforced disappearance, excessive pre-trial detention, undue delays in trials, incommunicado detention, allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, and lack of access to legal counsel and medical care. According to witnesses present at the court sentencing, the charges on which they were convicted were read quickly by the judge in front of families and legal counsel. Most of these charges carry a mandatory death sentence under Yemeni Criminal Law. Amnesty International called this legal process “fundamentally flawed.”
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights ECDHR calls for all parties to the conflict to end these violations of human rights and to ensure that the judiciary is not abused for repressive purposes. We call upon the Houthi authorities to overturn these unjust sentences, release individuals not convicted according to proper legal procedures, and to end systematic repression of political opponents and critics.