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Yemen: Huthi authorities must release four journalists sentenced to death

**UPDATE** The appeal hearing for the four journalists has been postponed from 22 May to 29 May.

Yemen’s Huthi de facto authorities must quash the death sentences and order the immediate release of four Yemeni journalists who are facing execution following a grossly unfair trial, Amnesty International said today ahead of an appeal hearing on 29 May before the Specialized Criminal Appeals Division in Sana’a, Yemen.

Since 2015, the Huthi authorities have arbitrarily detained Akram Al-Walidi, Abdelkhaleq Amran, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri without charge or trial for more than four years; subjecting them to a range of human rights abuses including forcible disappearance, intermittent incommunicado detention and solitary confinement, beatings and denial of access to medical care. The Specialized Criminal Court in Sana’a sentenced them to death in April 2020 after an unfair trial; a verdict that the defendants have since been appealing.

“The Huthi de facto authorities must quash these death sentences and release these journalists immediately. This has been a sham of a trial since the beginning and has borne a terrible toll on the men and their families. Pending their overdue release, the journalists must be provided with urgent medical care – the denial of medical treatment for the seriously ill is an act of cruelty which amounts to torture and other ill-treatment,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa

“The Huthi authorities must also immediately release all those it is currently detaining simply to settle political scores or exercise control – these include journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents, members of religious minorities. The Huthis de facto authorities are bound to respect the basic and inalienable rights of individuals under their control.”

 In October 2020 the four journalists were transferred to the Exchange House prison, in the Central Security Camp in Sana’a, expecting to be released as part of a prisoner exchange deal. Despite the Prosecutor General’s order, dated 30 October 2020, to release them they were maintained in detention. According to their lawyer, the Huthis denied the four men visits from their families and lawyers, subjected them to cruel treatment, and deprived them of access to adequate and timely medical care.

Tawfiq al-Mansouri is in critical health condition. He suffers from a prostate condition as well as chronic illnesses including heart disease and diabetes. Amnesty International interviewed a former detainee who had been held with the four journalists in the Central Security Camp in Sana’a, who confirmed that they were denied medical treatment, that they were being held in appalling detention conditions, denied family visits, and only provided with drinking water for half an hour per day, through the toilet’s tap water. Tawfiq’s brother also told Amnesty International that their family was not even allowed to bring him any medication, despite learning from released detainees that Tawfiq’s health was very concerning. Since 2020, Tawfiq al-Mansouri has not been allowed to be transferred to a hospital for treatment.  

Background

All parties to the conflict in Yemen have perpetrated grave human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials. 

In areas they control, Huthi forces have arbitrarily arrested and detained critics including journalists, human rights defenders, and members of the Baha’i community, and subjecting scores of people to unfair trials,incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance.

In May 2021, Amnesty International published a report investigating the experiences of civilians released as part of political deals in 2020 and documenting the release conditions which forced a number of released persons into exile, with the United Nations (UN) facilitating their departure, and eight other detainees banished to other parts of the country.

Conditions in Huthi-run prisons and detention centres are catastrophic, with severe overcrowding, insufficient food and clean drinking water, and poor sanitation.

Reporters Without Borders has reported that 14 journalists are currently detained in Yemen solely for their work, and that two journalists have been killed in 2022.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.