30 opposition figures sentenced to death

Shackles in Yemeni prison 1992
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Who is Youssef al-Bawab?

Youssef al-Bawab is a 45-year-old father of five, linguistics professor and political figure in Yemen. Youssef was arbitrarily arrested on 20 October 2016, as he was leaving his local mosque in Sana’a. He is currently facing a death sentence, alongside 29 other men, for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

On the night of his arrest, the Huthi de facto authorities raided Youssef’s house, where he lived with his wife and five children. They confiscated Youssef’s belongings, including his personal computer and 150 academic documents.  His family received no official information regarding his whereabouts for three months after his arrest. Finally, after three months, they found out he was being detained by the PSO – the Political Security Organisation, led by military officers, with their own detention centres – only learning of Youssef’s location through unofficial channels.

Proceedings were seriously flawed throughout Youssef’s detention. Youssef experienced enforced disappearance, excessive pre-trial detention, undue delays to his trial, and incommunicado detention; there are also claims of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as a lack of access to legal counsel and medical care.

Youssef was interrogated for the first time in March 2017, in the presence of his lawyer – this was the only time he was permitted to have legal counsel prior to his trial.

Youssef and 35 others were charged on 8 April 2017. They were convicted of several offenses that carry the death penalty. Some of their charges include assisting the Saudi Arabia-led coalition with intelligence regarding military objectives, and organising assassinations.

All 30 men will appeal their sentences. Six other people who were also on trial were acquitted.

Scope of arbitrary detentions in Yemen

In Huthi controlled areas, they have arbitrarily arrested and detained critics and opponents, as well as journalists, human rights defenders

In areas they controlled, Huthi forces arbitrarily arrested and detained critics and opponents, as well as journalists, human rights defenders and members of the Baha’i community – a minority religious group – subjecting scores to unfair trials, incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance. The majority of those targeted have been leaders, members, or supporters of the political party al-Islah.

Huthi forces are not alone in their practice of arbitrary detention – the internationally recognised Yemeni government has harassed, threatened and arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and other activists. Meanwhile, UAE-backed Yemeni forces in southern Yemen conducted a campaign of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances.

In May 2018, Amnesty International published a report detailing the cases of 51 men held in a network of secret prisons by UAE and Yemeni forces operating outside the command of Yemen’s government, including individuals detained between March 2016 and May 2018.

Huthi de facto leadership was established in Sana’a in 2014 through a gradual armed takeover by the Huthis and their supporters, pushing the Yemeni government from power. Sana’a is the capital city according to the Yemeni constitution, however after the Huthi takeover, the internationally recognised government relocated to the city of Aden. Sana’a remains in Huthi control.

Tweet your support for Youssef and the other 29 detainees: @abdusalamsalah

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