Yemen: Authorities urged to commute execution of child offender

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has already ratified the death sentence of Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum who is at imminent risk of execution. Samoum has been sentenced to death for a murder he is alleged to have committed in May 2002. Although he does not have a birth certificate, he maintains that he is now 24 years old, which would make him 15 at the time of the offence.

Another alleged child offender, Fuad Ahmed Ali Abdulla, whose death sentence was due to be carried out at the weekend (19 December), had his execution halted by the Yemeni authorities on 18 December. His case is now to be reviewed. In both cases, it is unclear how the court determined their ages.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Philip Luther said:

“We are urgently appealing to President Ali Abdullah Saleh to show clemency in the case of alleged juvenile offender Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum.

“We call for him to be saved from execution - the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment - and for his death sentence to be commuted.

“Yemen has the right and responsibility to bring to justice those suspected of recognisably criminal offences, but Amnesty is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

“Executing individuals for crimes they are accused of committing while apparently under 18 is not only inhumane but also in contravention of Yemen’s obligations according to both Yemeni and international law.”

Yemen is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which expressly prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders - those convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18. The application of the death penalty on juvenile offenders is also expressly prohibited in Article 31 of Yemen’s Penal Code.

Amnesty is aware of at least eight other people who are possible child offenders on death row in Yemen and has long-standing concerns about the use of the death penalty in the country, particularly as death sentences are often passed after proceedings which fall short of international standards for fair trial. In 2009, at least 53 people were sentenced to death and at least 30 people were executed in Yemen - the sixth highest of any country in the world. In 2010 so far, at least 19 people have been executed. Hundreds are believed to be on death row.

Note to editors

Yemen has made significant progress in the prohibition of the use of the death penalty against child offenders, but courts continue to sentence alleged child offenders to death.

The legal progress to prohibit the use of the death penalty against child offenders followed Yemen’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. At that time the prohibition of the use of the death penalty against child offenders was limited to offenders below the age of 15 at the time of the crime. However, this categorical prohibition was extended in 1994 to include individuals below the age of 18 at the time of the commission of capital offences.

This was stipulated in Article 31 of the Penal Code, Law 12 of 1994, and marked a positive development, bringing Yemen’s laws into line with Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which categorically prohibit the use of the death penalty against anyone under 18 years of age at the time of commission of any crime.

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