Yemeni woman faces execution following political interference in her case

A Yemeni woman is facing imminent execution accused of killing her husband. Fatima Hussein Badi was convicted of murder in 2001 and faces the death penalty despite a court ruling in 2003 that she did not take part in the killing.

There is mounting fear for her life following the execution of another woman for similar charges on Sunday. ‘Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi was sentenced to death for the murder of her husband in October 2003 and her sentence was confirmed on appeal in 2007.

In December 2008, the Supreme Court in Sana’a upheld the death sentence and it was ratified by the President. ‘Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi was executed after relatives of her husband, including her seven children, refused to pardon her.

Under the Shari’a rule of Qisas (retribution in kind), relatives of the victims of certain categories of murder have the power to pardon the offender in exchange for compensation (blood money), grant a pardon freely or request his or her execution.

Amnesty International condemned the execution of ‘Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi and has called on the Yemeni authorities not to execute Fatima Hussein Badi and to halt all other executions immediately. The organization opposes the death penalty unconditionally in all situations as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

Fatima Hussein Badi was arrested along with her brother for the murder of her husband Hamoud Ali al-Jalal on 13 July 2000. During interrogations, the police are alleged to have attempted to make her confess by bringing her brother Abdullah to her with his face covered in blood.

She was then threatened with rape in the presence of her brother, who apparently confessed to the murder in order to save her.

According to Amnesty International’s information, she was not provided with a lawyer during interrogations and only allowed a lawyer after she was charged with murder. During a number of their trial hearings, Fatima and Abdullah had no legal representation and were forced to be quiet whenever they tried to speak in court.

They were both sentenced to death by the Court of First Instance in February 2001 and their death sentences were upheld by the Court of Appeal in August 2002.

In September 2003, the Supreme Court found that Fatima Hussein Badi had not taken part in the killing of her husband but had participated in the hiding of his body and reduced her sentence to four years’ imprisonment.

However, following interference by the then Head of Parliament, the Yemeni President refused to ratify the revised verdict and returned the case to the Supreme Court for a second consideration. The death sentence was reinstated and subsequently ratified by the President.

Her brother was executed in May 2005. She remains on death row and at risk of execution. Her son, reported to be the oldest of her four children, is said to be refusing her pardon under the rule of Qisas and demanding her immediate execution.  

“In the case of Fatima Hussein Badi, the executive and legislative powers of the state blatantly interfered in matters which should be exclusively judicial,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Such interference, combined with the gross irregularities in the investigation and trial, makes the threat of execution particularly disturbing.”

Yemen retains the death penalty for a wide variety of offences ranging from murder to non-violent offences, such as apostasy. This wide scope, coupled with the fact that trial procedures often fall far short of international standards, have contributed to making Yemen one of the most extensive users of the death penalty in the world.