Yemen's human rights record examined by the UN as human rights defenders arrested


Human rights defenders continue to operate at grave risk in Yemen despite ongoing efforts to bring the conflict to an end. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights reported that on 28th January 2019, two human rights defenders from the Saferworld’s office in Yemen - Awfa Al-Na’ami, the director, and her colleague Alhassan Al-Qawtari were arrested and held incommunicado for more than 15 days with no access to their families or a lawyer by the National Security (Mokabarat) Office in Sana’a, which is controlled by the Houthi forces. Both activists were summoned for a meeting on the date of arrest by the National Security (Mokabarat) Office. Awfa Al-Na’ami was released on 16th February while her colleague Alhassan Al-Qaqtari was released on 14th February 2019. Saferworld is an independent international organisation working to prevent violent conflict and build safer lives.

In January 2019, Yemen's human rights record was examined during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Ahead of the review civil society organisations had expressed grave concern about the situation for human rights defenders in the country. Human rights defenders are regularly abducted, kidnapped and detained in undisclosed locations, and some have been tortured. They are often subjected to smear campaigns, threats and judicial persecution, and the perpetrators typically enjoy impunity. Several CSOs have been raided by armed factions, had staff detained and family members threatened, leading to reduced activities or closure.


On 28th January 2019, journalist Sabri Salmeen bin Makhashin, who had been detained for nearly two months, was released from the Military Intelligence Service's prison in the province of Hadhramaut. Bin Makhashin, the editor-in-chief of “Al-Mohrer” newspaper, was arrested on 3rd December 2018. An appeal from his family five days after his detention stated that his health had already suffered as a result of poor conditions in prison, and that he had been refused medication, including for his diabetes. Despite health problems and lack of medication, bin Makhashin had been on hunger strike since his arrest. Authorities have not provided any reason for his arrest but local reports confirm that it was related to his publications on social media in which he criticised the governor of Hadhramaut, Faraj Al-Bahasni. After his release, his human right to move freely has been further restricted, as bin Makhashin was initially denied permission to leave the country to seek medical treatment for his deteriorating health, but was later on allowed to travel with his family to Cairo, Egypt.