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Yemen: Over 150 NGOs appeal for death sentences of four journalists to be overturned


Human Rights organisations are calling on United nations to save the lives of the Yemeni Journalists

by n.tarek
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Organisations which support human rights, press freedom and journalists are calling on United Nations mechanisms and member states  to help save the lives of four Yemeni journalists who were sentenced to death in April 2020 in the capital Sana’a on charges of “spying” and “spreading false news.” Of the six other journalists in the same case whom the judge ordered to be freed, after five years in detention, only one has been released so far. The de facto authorities in Sana’a, the Houthis, must immediately overturn the death sentences and free the other nine journalists who have been convicted in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

We recently celebrated World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2020. Journalism, especially independent and critical journalism, is vital to promote transparency accountability, good governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law.  Journalists are in no way actors in the conflict in Yemen and cannot be targeted under any circumstances.

The four journalists, Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri were convicted on 11 April 2020 by the Specialised Criminal Court in Sana’a, which is controlled by the Houthis. Their lawyer Abdelmajeed Sabra, who was denied access to the verdict hearing, began the appeals process on 22 April 2020.

The judge sentenced the other six journalists, Hisham Ahmed Tarmoom, Hisham Abdulmalik Al-Yousefi, Haitham Abdulrahman Al-Shihab, Essam Amin Balgheeth, Hassan Abdullah Annab and Salah Muhammad Al-Qaedi, to time already served in prison, or approximately five years, and also placed them under police supervision for a period of another three years. In addition, the electronic devices and materials that were in their possession when they were arrested remain confiscated.

The Public Prosecution had demanded that the maximum penalties be directed against them according to Articles 16, 21, 126 second, and 136 of the Penal Code (Law No. 12 of 1994 on crimes and penalties).

The journalists were charged with spreading false news “in support of the crimes of Saudi aggression and its allies against the Republic of Yemen.” The journalists were also accused of “harming the public interest by setting up several websites and pages on the Internet and social networks and running them in secret in several hotels in the capital, Sanaa.” The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting a war against the Houthis in Yemen since 2015.

On 9 June 2015, a group of Houthi forces arrested nine of the journalists while they were using the Internet at the Qasr Al-Ahlam hotel in Sana’a. Salah Mohammad Al-Qaedi was later detained at his home in Sana’a by Houthi forces on 28 August 2015. They were arbitrarily detained,  held in solitary confinement at length, tortured and mistreated while in captivity, and were not formally charged until more than three years later. In December 2018, fabricated charges were issued against them related to their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression in a show trial that violated international fair trial and due process standards.

Meanwhile, despite the court’s decision to release the six journalists, the authorities continue to delay their release. Until the date of this appeal, only journalist Salah Mohammad Al-Qaedi has been released (on 23 April 2020).

The undersigned organisations call on all the parties to the conflict to uphold the right to freedom of expression and cease their efforts to muzzle journalists and media organisations.

We, the undersigned, call on the United Nations, specifically the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, and UN Members states, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, who co-chair the Media Freedom Coalition of 35 states, to request the de facto authorities in Sana’a, the Houthis, to:

  • Overturn the sentences against the ten journalists, particularly the death sentences imposed on journalists Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri, and release them immediately;
  • Immediately free journalists Hisham Ahmed Tarmoom, Hisham Abdulmalik Al-Yousefi, Haitham Abdulrahman Al-Shihab, Essam Amin Balgheeth, and Hassan Abdullah Annab, following the court’s order to release them on 11 April 2020, and ensure they are not subjected to further judicial measures to restrict their work;
  • Free all detained and disappeared Yemeni journalists, and drop all charges against them;
  • Make every effort to ensure the safety and physical integrity of journalists – in accordance with customary international humanitarian law; and
  • Ensure that journalists are able to carry out their work without fear of arrest or other forms of reprisals and restrictions that violate their right to freedom of expression.

Signed,

  1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran
  2. Abductees’ Mothers Association
  3. ACAT-Belgique /Belgium/ Belgie
  4. ACAT-Côte d’Ivoire
  5. ِACAT-España/ Catalunya
  6. ACAT-Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
  7. ACAT-Italia
  8. ACAT-Switzerland
  9. ACAT-USA
  10. Access Center For Human Rights (ACHR)
  11. Access Now
  12. Ahmed Tlili’s Foundation for Democratic Culture
  13. Al-Aalem Al-Jadeed
  14. Al-Haq – Palestine
  15. Al-Mustaqbal Association
  16. Al-Wed Development Foundation
  17. Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH)
  18. ALQST for Human Rights
  19. Amarchi Center for Media Development
  20. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  21. Amman Center for Human Rights Studies
  22. Arab Coalition against the Death Penalty
  23. Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR), Syria
  24. Arab Women Organisation of Jordan (AWO)
  25. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
  26. ARTICLE 19
  27. Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc
  28. Association for Citizenship, Development, Cultures and Migrations of the Two Banks (CDCMIR)
  29. Association mauritanienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH)
  30. Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development
  31. Association of Tunisian Women Voters
  32. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  33. Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights
  34. Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
  35. Center for Constitutional Rights
  36. Center for Democracy and Civil Rights in Syria
  37. CIVICUS
  38. Committee to Protect Journalists
  39. Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
  40. Dameer Association for Rights and Freedoms
  41. Death Penalty Focus, USA
  42. Democratic Transition and Human Rights Support Center (DAAM)
  43. El-Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
  44. Electronic Organization for Humanitarian Media
  45. English PEN
  46. Ethical Possibility Enhancement (EPE) Movement
  47. FIDH
  48. For Your Sake Foundation
  49. Free Press Unlimited
  50. Free Sight Association
  51. Freedom Forum
  52. Freedom Now, Morocco
  53. Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties
  54. German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP)
  55. Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
  56. Global Voices Advox
  57. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  58. Hands Off
  59. Human Rights Sentinels
  60. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
  61. IFEX
  62. Impunity Watch
  63. Initiative Mawjoudin pour l’égalité
  64. Inmates’ Voices / Voix de détenus – Switzerland
  65. Innovation for Change Middle East and North Africa
  66. International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)
  67. International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE)
  68. International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms, Switzerland
  69. International Commission of Journalists (ICJ)
  70. International Federation for Rights and Development (IFRD)
  71. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  72. International Media Support (IMS)
  73. International Press Institute (IPI)
  74. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  75. Irada Association for Community Development
  76. Iraqi Al Amal Association
  77. Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM)
  78. Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR)
  79. Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU)
  80. Jordanian Coalition against the Death Penalty
  81. Joud Foundation for Sustainable Development – Yemen
  82. Journalistic Freedoms Observatory
  83. Karama Academy for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, Algeria
  84. Kenya Human Rights Commission
  85. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  86. Legal Awareness Watch (LAW)
  87. Lifespark (Movement against the death penalty) Switzerland
  88. MADA-Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
  89. MADPET-Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture
  90. Maghreb Coordination of Human Rights Organizations
  91. Maharat Foundation
  92. Mahra Youth Unity Association
  93. Maison des Droits de l’Homme du Cameroun (MDHC)
  94. MENA Rights Group
  95. Metro Center for Journalists Rights & Advocacy
  96. Moroccan Association for Human Rights (ADMH)
  97. Moroccan Association for the Protection of Cultural Manuscripts
  98. Moroccan Coalition Against the Death Penalty
  99. Moroccan Coalition for Human Rights Organisations
  100. Musaala for Human Rights Organization
  101. Mwatana for Human Rights
  102. National Center for Peace and Development
  103. National Observatory for the Defense of the Civil Character of the State
  104. No Peace Without Justice
  105. Norwegian PEN
  106. Omani Centre for Human Rights
  107. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
  108. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
  109. Peace and Building Foundation
  110. Peace Partners
  111. PEN America
  112. PEN Canada
  113. PEN International
  114. PEN Iraq
  115. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  116. Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq
  117. Promo LEX Association Moldova
  118. Protection Organisation for Digital Rights, Iraq
  119. Qarar Foundation for Media and Sustainable Development
  120. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  121. Reprieve
  122. Rights Realization Centre
  123. Rory Peck Trust
  124. SAM for Rights and Liberties
  125. Samir Kassir Foundation – SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
  126. Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies
  127. Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)
  128. Sky Line International for Human Rights
  129. Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l’éducation du Niger (SYNAFEN)
  130. Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research
  131. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  132. Syrian Organization for Rights and Public Freedoms
  133. Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ)
  134. The Advocates for Human Rights
  135. Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM)
  136. Tunis Center for Press Freedom
  137. Tunisian Association for the Right to the Promotion of Difference (ATPDD)
  138. Tunisian Association of Democratic Women
  139. Tunisian Association of Positive Prevention (ATP+)
  140. Tunisian Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CTCPM)
  141. Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH)
  142. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
  143. Witness to Innocence
  144. Wogood Foundation for Human Security
  145. Women Defenders of Rights, Freedoms and Sustainable Development, Yemen
  146. Women Prisoners Association in Syria
  147. Women’s Studies Centre, Palestine
  148. World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
  149. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  150. Yemen Archive
  151. Yemeni Women Journalists Network
  152. Youth Ideas Initiative

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