A year has passed since the Houthi-controlled Specialized Criminal Court issued its judgement of executing 30 political activists in a single hearing on July 9th, 2019. The court rule had no judicial standards.The defendants were all academics, educators, and students who had never been into prison before and had no criminal record. The only reasons for their arrest were their political believes and affiliations.
Thirty abductees are in their sixth year at Houthi prisons
The defendants have been abducted by Houthi armed group by the end of 2015 and during 2016. They were abducted from their homes, workplaces, and different public places.
Their houses were stormed, their families were frightened, and their relatives were taken as hostages. Each abductee was forcibly disappeared for at least two months at the beginning of their detention.
Then, during their detention period, they were forcibly disappeared for as long as two years.
Abductees have been repeatedly subjected to physical and psychological torture, inhuman mistreatment, and medical care prevention. Due to the long detention periods, torture marks on some of them had started disappearing since authorities refused to refer them to a court during the many years of interrogation and torture as an attempt to cover the scars.
Yet, the defense team, which included Abdulmajeed Sabra, Mohammed Abkar, Moqbel Al-Hanahi, and Hussein Al-Hamami, witnessed torture marks on some abductees, including; professor Nasr Al-Salami, professor Yousuf Al-Bawab, and Khaled Al-Nahari, during the interrogation sessions lawyers were rarely allowed to attend.However, the torture marks were stated within interrogation transcripts.
Houthi armed group legislates murder and contradict all international laws and conventions
Fair hearing procedures, according to international conventions and Yemeni constitution and laws, consist of many rules in regard to preserving human rights and dignity.The presumption of innocence is one the main rules as stated in Article 11 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Principle 36 of Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 47 of the Constitution of Yemen, and Article 4 of the Law of Criminal Procedures.
As for the principle of equality, Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals.” Article 5 of the Law of Criminal Procedures and Article 26 of the Law of Procedure and Civil Enforcement state that “All the citizens are equal before the law; no person may be pursued, or subjected to any damages due to nationality, race, origin, language, religious belief, occupation, educational level or social standing.”
Such principles were violated in abductees’ cases, starting with arrest processes and forced disappearance until court hearings and judgments issuing. The issued judgements entirely based on political decisions which completely disrupt the impartiality and independence of Houthi court and judiciary system in the case of abductees.
According to Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 149 of the Constitution of Yemen, and Article 1 of the Law of Judicial Authority, “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” stated by Article 5 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 48 of the Constitution of Yemen, and Article 6 of the Law of Criminal Procedures.
Article 15 of the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment states that “Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.” Similarly, Article 322 of the Yemeni Law of Criminal Procedure states the same thing.
Many different laws, such as Article 48 of the Constitution of Yemen, agree with Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.”
Additionally, Houthi armed group ignored informing the public of the hearings ignoring Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stating that “Everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society.”
Article 49 of the Constitution of Yemen and Article 9 of the Yemeni Law of Criminal Procedure state that “The right of defense is guaranteed and the accused is entitled to carry on his own defense, as well as he is entitled to be assisted by a representative to defend him, in any of the stages of the procedures of handling criminal cases, including the investigation period.”
Regarding the right to have the time to prepare defense, Article 7 of Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that “Governments shall further ensure that all persons arrested or detained, with or without criminal charge, shall have prompt access to a lawyer, and in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of arrest or detention.” And Article 8 states that “All arrested, detained or imprisoned persons shall be provided with adequate opportunities, time and facilities to be visited by and to communicate and consult with a lawyer, without delay, interception or censorship and in full confidentiality. Such consultations may be within sight, but not within the hearing, of law enforcement officials.”
A court hearing can only be described as impartial when two conditions are met. First, to entirely follow the legal and judicial procedures based on international laws and conventions and Yemeni constitution and laws mentioned above. Second, the implementation of such laws must be carried out by unbiased and independent judicial authority.”
However, Houthi armed group has deliberately ignored complying to such laws, worrying the national and international community and human rights organizations as it is considered a grave violation against human rights.
Moreover, Houthi’s security agencies intentionally defamed the sentenced abductees and their families by using all media platform to publish footage of coerced confessions violating all principles of fair trial.
Yet, the defense team has stood up against these violations using legal defenses based on the articles of the Constitution of Yemen and different international laws and conventions.
Nevertheless, their defenses have been disregarded and all violations against abductees continued, which led abductees to calling for the help of humanitarian conscience to save them. The call resulted in the forced disappearance and beating of Yousuf Al-Bawab, since he was appointed by other abductees to speak on their behalf, and the harassment of the defense team and inciting violence and hatred against them through media platform.
The defense team has often stressed on the importance of immediate release of the thirty abductees and stopping the implementation of death penalty by all local and international human rights organizations.