Journalists killed and civil society calls for international support
Journalists continue to operate in Yemen at grave risk to their lives. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, on 26th May 2017 two journalists were killed and two more seriously injured. Cameramen Takieddin al-Hudhaifi and Wael al-Absi were killed while covering clashes between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and forces loyal to the Houthi militia in the city of Taiz, while cameramen Salahuddin al-Wahbani and Walid al-Qadasi were injured.
In June 2017, Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights released a new report on the serious situation for the press in Yemen, which was also presented to the UN Human Rights Council. According to the report, the press is close to extinction as a consequence of the war. Journalists are in need of urgent support and protection from the international community. The report highlighted the numerous violations that journalists in Yemen have been subjected to such as killings and “systematic patterns of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, media center closures, [and] unfair prosecutions and trials - one of which resulted in a death sentence”.
In addition, the two above-mentioned organisations urge all parties in the conflict to respect international law as well as abide by the minimum standards of human rights by releasing all journalists arbitrarily detained. Furthermore, the international community should do more to protect journalists in Yemen by establishing an international commission of enquiry.
Earlier in June, nine human rights groups called on the Houthi and allied forces to immediately release ten Yemeni journalists who have been arbitrarily detained. The joint statement from 9th June 2017 expressed concern for the journalists' well being, nine of whom have been detained since 9th June 2015 and one who has been detained since 28th August 2015. Their families assert that the journalists have not been formally charged nor brought to trial since their arrest and family members were restricted from visiting them in May.
Human rights groups have urged the UN Security Council to take urgent action to protect human rights defenders in Yemen. In a letter to the Ambassadors of the UN Security Council on 5th May 2017, twelve human rights groups expressed their concern over the "continued arbitrary arrests, detentions, and harassment of advocates and activists by the Houthi-Saleh forces in northern Yemen.”
The letter also referenced the fact that the Yemeni government, through its embassy in Washington DC, had written to U.S. lawmakers “lashing out at prominent Yemeni human rights advocates” and accusing them of having a "political agenda.” Among those who were named by the Yemeni government was Radhya Almutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights.
The organisations petitioned the UN Security Council to:
“support their efforts to advance human rights in Yemen, and we ask you to urge the Government of Yemen to uphold international law and for all parties to the conflict to respect the rights of human rights defenders and civil society actors”.
Further protests calling for southern secession were held in Aden on 21st May 2017, according to the Middle East Eye. Thousands of protesters gathered to support the South Transition Council established by former Aden Governor Aidarous al-Zubaidi. There were no reports of violence during the protests.