Huthi de facto authorities have carried out an alarming wave of arrests rounding up scores of largely peaceful demonstrators, who gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the country’s 26th of September Revolution, said Amnesty International. The organization is calling on Huthi de facto authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all demonstrators held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of assembly.
“In a draconian show of force, Huthi de facto authorities have carried out a wave of sweeping arrests, demonstrating their flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained solely for exercising their rights,” said Grazia Careccia, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“It is outrageous that demonstrators commemorating a national historical moment found themselves attacked, arrested, and facing charges simply because they were waving flags. This repressive crackdown further illustrates the lengths to which Huthi de facto authorities are prepared to go to in order to stifle free expression in areas under their control.”
On 26 September, a date which marks the establishment of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962, people took to the streets in governorates across Yemen, including Sana’a, Ibb, and Houdeidah carrying Yemeni Republic flags to celebrate the anniversary.
One lawyer, Abdel Majid Sabra, who is following up on the cases of 20 individuals detained following the demonstrations, said police authorities informed him that there are hundreds of demonstrators currently detained across police stations in Sana’a.
Huthi supporters chanting pro-Huthi slogans attacked us in Jawlat al Alam. They threw rocks at us while we were in our cars. A Huthi supporter twisted my arm as he violently removed the flag from my hand.Yemeni lawyer, who participated in the demonstrations in Sana’a
Another lawyer, who participated in the demonstrations in Sana’a, told Amnesty International that pro-Huthi supporters and members of the Huthi armed forces attacked her and other demonstrators and violently confiscated their flags in districts of Sana’a, including Jawlat al Alam and Jawlat Aser. She explained:
“Huthi supporters chanting pro-Huthi slogans attacked us in Jawlat al Alam. They threw rocks at us while we were in our cars. A Huthi supporter twisted my arm as he violently removed the flag from my hand.
“In Jawlat Aser, members of the Huthi armed forces confiscated the flag by force from the hand of the girl who was with me in my car, they stamped on it and chanted the Huthi slogan. I also saw them attack a man on his motorcycle and confiscate his flag. We were attacked and called traitors. I felt humiliated … This was an attack on my dignity and my humanity.”
I also saw them attack a man on his motorcycle and confiscate his flag. We were attacked and called traitors. I felt humiliated … This was an attack on my dignity and my humanity.”Yemeni lawyer, who participated in the demonstrations in Sana’a
Amnesty International has verified video footage showing Huthi armed forces arresting demonstrators. Another video shows one demonstrator suffering from head injuries.
The demonstrations were largely peaceful although a small number of demonstrators threw rocks in isolated incidents.
Abdel Majid Sabra, the lawyer following the cases of 20 detained demonstrators, said that several detainees are facing vague charges such as creating “chaos” and “being motivated by other parties.” The detainees he spoke to said they were singled out by the security forces for carrying the national flag of Yemen.
Since 2015, Amnesty International has documented how the Huthi de facto authorities use repressive tactics to suppress the right to freedom of expression and silence peaceful dissent in areas under their control by harassing, threatening, arbitrarily detaining and prosecuting journalists, political activists, human rights defenders, and other individuals for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.