Journalists and HRDs continue to face relentless onlsaught
On 10th January 2024, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) published a report documenting how parties to the conflict in Yemen continue to commit serious violations that undermine the civil and human rights of all citizens, including journalists, human rights defenders and activists.
On 2nd January 2024, the Houthi group arrested retired judge Abdulwahab Qatran, after raiding his home located in the capital, Sana’a. Informed local sources confirmed that he has been detained since his arrest in a solitary confinement cell at the Security and Intelligence Service. He has been prevented from communicating with his family and his lawyer, raising fears that he may be subjected to torture.
The day before his arrest, he posted the following tweet on his X account (formerly Twitter), “The eyes of the cowards do not sleep, our full solidarity.” He was declaring his full solidarity with journalist Magali Al-Samadi after his second assault. Press reports stated that this tweet and his use of his X account to criticise the Houthi group were the reason for his arrest.
On 31st December 2023, the Court of Appeal in Sana’a upheld the Ministry of Information’s appeal in the case of journalist Majali Othman Al-Samadi. Al-Samadi is the founder and director of “Voice of Yemen” radio, which was suspended from broadcasting on 25th January 2022 by the Ministry of Information in Sana’a, which is affiliated with the Houthi group. He filed a complaint with the judiciary, and the Press Court issued a preliminary ruling in his favour on 24th December 2022 but that ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal on 31st December 2023.
Al-Samadi was represented by prominent human rights lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra who stated on his Facebook page, “The president of the court, Abdulkarim Al-Mansoor, did not content himself with reading the unjust ruling that contravened the axioms of the constitution and the press and publications law, which guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression, but he added the phrase that those present in the courtroom heard, which shows racism towards journalist Magali Othman Al-Samadi and great bias with the Ministry of Information, when he said to him: ‘You do not have the right to be a journalist and own a radio station.’”
On 1st January 2024, Al-Samadi reported on his Facebook page that he had been assaulted by three people in front of his house. The photos he attached with the post showed that he suffered several bruises and injuries throughout his body, and his personal car was also destroyed. GCHR had documented Al-Samadi being subjected to a previous similar attack on 24th August 2023.
On 5th December 2023, the Specialised Criminal Court of First Instance in Sana’a issued a discretionary death penalty (Ta’zir) against human rights defender Ms. Fatima Saleh Al-Arwali after finding her guilty of the trumped up charges made against her. It is hoped that she will appeal this initial ruling.
GCHR reviewed the list of accusations included in the indictment, which included an allegation that she “recruited herself to work with Emirati intelligence officers… and agreed with them to provide them with information and coordinates for the locations of the army, the popular committees, military manufacturing sites, and missile platforms in the Al-Jawf and Al-Bayda Governorates,” also in addition to their locations in Ma’rib Governorate, “in exchange for receiving a monthly salary in Emirati dirhams.” She was also accused of publicly “impersonating another woman” and “hiding her real name because she was wanted by the authorities.”
Al-Arwali, who is head of the Al-Habitat Organisation for Human Rights Development, was arrested on 14th August 2022 at Al-Hawban checkpoint while she was travelling from Sana’a, to the city of Aden. She was arrested by the Security and Intelligence Service, which has detained her in its prison since then and isolated her from the outside world, including her family.
Prominent human rights lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra described the ruling to GCHR as arbitrary and added, “The ruling is unfair as she did not get access to a lawyer.”
Human Rights Watched also reported on Al-Arwali’s unfair trial, remarking the verdict should be quashed and Houthi authorities must cease their escalating repression of free expression and women’s rights.
On 22nd August 2023, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention wrote to the Houthi authorities to protest the “enforced disappearance, and detention without charge of human rights defender Ms. Fatima Saleh Al-Arwali in apparent retaliation for her promotion and protection of human rights.”
On 14th December 2023, during a meeting held by the Council of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), the Southern Media Syndicate affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council forcefully seized the union’s headquarters in the city of Aden. The Council reiterated its call on all Yemeni authorities to “do their work to protect rights and property by activating the applicable laws that prevent attacks on the property of others, punishing aggressor perpetrators, and deterring them with the force of law.”
On 19th November 2023, journalist Naseh Shaker disappeared while passing through the city of Aden on his way to travel through Aden International Airport to participate in a training course held outside the country.
Informed sources confirmed to GCHR that the last contact between him and his family took place on the morning of his disappearance, after which contact with him was cut off.
Shaker is an independent journalist based in Sana’a. He regularly contributes his writing to many international news outlets, focusing on the humanitarian costs of the war on children and innocent civilians in Yemen.