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Amnesty International Report 1997 - Yemen

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1997
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1997 - Yemen, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa005c.html [accessed 26 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Twenty-one political prisoners remained in detention, most of them under sentence of death. They included a prisoner of conscience serving his 14th year under sentence of death. Scores of political suspects, including possible prisoners of conscience, were detained for brief periods during the year. Two political trials which began in 1995 continued during the year. Torture and ill-treatment were reported. The judicial punishment of flogging was widely imposed and the status of sentences of amputation passed in 1995 was unclear. At least one person died in custody. The fate and whereabouts of hundreds of people who "disappeared" in previous years remained unknown. At least eight people were sentenced to death and the cases of hundreds of others sentenced in previous years were at different stages of the appeal process. Executions were believed to have been carried out. Around 20 Saudi Arabian political or religious opponents of their government were forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia, apparently without being offered access to asylum procedures.

Contrary to the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure, little action was taken during the year by the government of President ‘Ali‘Abdullah Saleh to bring to justice those responsible for arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention and torture, or to impose institutional safeguards against these violations of human rights. Scores of political suspects, including possible prisoners of conscience, were subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, mainly by the Political Security (PS) office, in various parts of the country. Most of them were detained for short periods and denied access to lawyers before they were released without charge. Those targeted for arrest included government critics and members of opposition organizations. Idris al-Ma'khadi, a student at Sana‘a University and member of Hizb al-Haq, a legal political party with two elected members of parliament, was arrested at the beginning of January with a group of students after they distributed statements condemning the beating of Dr 'Abu Bakr al-Saqaf, a university professor who was abducted and beaten in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). All those arrested with him were released after a few days in detention, but Idris al-Ma'khadi remained in incommunicado detention in the PS headquarters in Sana‘a for several weeks before he was released without charge.

Many of those who were arrested or detained were suspected of having links with the al-Jabha al-Wataniya Lilmu'ardha, National Front for the Opposition, an opposition organization based abroad. It was not known whether any were still held at the end of the year, but some who were arrested in 1995 in connection with their links with political parties may have continued to be held without trial. They included ‘Abdullah Muhammad Mustafa ‘Ajina, reportedly a former member of the PS, who was believed to remain held without trial in the PS headquarters in Sana‘a since his arrest in November 1995.

Twenty political prisoners, suspected members of the former al-Jabha al-Wataniya al-Dimuqratiyya, National Democratic Front, an opposition organization in the former Yemen Arab Republic, remained held (see Amnesty International Report 1996), most of them under sentence of death. However, new information came to light suggesting that the death sentences passed on two of them – Muhammad Nasser Sa‘d al-Sabahi and Ahmad ‘Abdullah Hussein al-Faqih – for murder had been commuted to payment of blood money. Some of these sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court but had not been ratified by the President by the end of the year.

One prisoner of conscience, Mansur Rajih, a poet and writer under sentence of death, remained in prison for the 14th year (see Amnesty International Report 1996). He had been convicted of murder in 1983 after grossly unfair hearings. His sentence had not been ratified by the President at the end of the year. The government continued to insist that Mansur Rajih's release could only take place if he was pardoned by the family of the victim whom he was convicted of murdering. He remained held in Tai'z Central Prison suffering from ill health.

The hearings of two political trials which began in 1995 continued during the year. One trial, that of Adam Salah al-Din Mansur, an Algerian national (known also as 'Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman), and 20 Yemeni nationals, remained in progress (see Amnesty International Report 1996). One session of the trial was attended by an Amnesty International observer. The other trial, that of three defendants charged with carrying out bomb attacks in ‘Aden (see Amnesty International Report 1996), concluded. The defendants were convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from one and a half years' to three years' imprisonment. The court also ordered an investigation into the allegations of torture by the defendants (see below).

Throughout the year, there were frequent reports of torture and ill-treatment of political detainees as well as criminal suspects. Forms of torture included beatings with wooden or metal sticks, electric shocks, whipping, suspension from the wrists and the use of shackles. Muhammad Sa‘d Tarmum, an engineer who was held in al-Sawlaban detention centre in ‘Aden, was reportedly forced to place his hands on the floor and had his fingers repeatedly hit with a stone. Two women, Faiza Sa‘id al-Mawsati and Samia ‘Awadh Ba Najar, alleged that they had been raped while in the custody of the criminal investigation police in Hadhramout in March. They were charged with making false allegations and brought to trial. In August, the court acquitted the two women and sentenced one police officer to two and a half years' imprisonment on charges of deprivation of liberty. However, the court's verdict did not refer to the allegation of rape, and was subject to appeal by the end of the year.

During some trials, public prosecutors and judges referred torture victims for medical examinations and the findings were consistent with the allegations of torture. During the trial of the three defendants tried in connection with the bomb attacks in ‘Aden (see above), the court ordered a medical examination of the victims and, in light of the findings, apparently ruled that legal proceedings against the alleged perpetrators should be initiated by the public prosecutor. No information was available regarding progress in the implementation of the ruling. However, in the cases of political suspects subjected to arbitrary arrest and short-term detention and released without charge or trial, no investigations into allegations of torture or ill-treatment were known to have resulted in any legal proceedings.

At least one person, 'Ahmad Sa‘id Salmayn Bakhabira, died allegedly as a result of torture while in the custody of security forces in Si'UN in June. His family appealed to the government for an investigation, but it was not known whether one had been initiated by the end of the year.

The judicial punishment of flogging was widely imposed and carried out, often with no real possibility for defendants to appeal against the sentence. No sentences of amputation were known to have been passed and the government assured Amnesty International that no such sentences had been carried out since 1993. It was unclear whether the sentences of amputation passed in 1995 had been commuted (see Amnesty International Report 1996).

The fate and whereabouts of hundreds of people who "disappeared" in previous years remained unknown (see previous Amnesty International Reports), but the government made an undertaking to investigate the cases brought to its attention by Amnesty International of people who had "disappeared" since 1994. These included Farazdaq Fuad Qaied, who "disappeared" in July 1994 from al-Qala Prison in Sana‘a where he had been detained as a prisoner during the 1994 civil war.

At least eight people were sentenced to death, although the real figure may have been much higher. Three soldiers were convicted, one of them in absentia, of the murder of six civilians in Hudeida Province in August. They were convicted within a few days of the incident and their sentences were upheld by the appeal court a week later. It was not clear whether their sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court and ratified by the President. Executions were believed to have been carried out, but the exact number was not known.

Hundreds of death sentences passed in previous years remained at different stages of the appeal process. For example, Sabah al-Difani was sentenced in December 1995 to death by stoning after she was convicted on murder charges. Her sentence was believed to be pending appeal before the Court of Appeal at the end of the year. The sentence of ‘Ali Ahmad Qassim al-Khubayzan was also believed to be pending appeal before the Court of Appeal. He was sentenced in 1995 to cross-amputation, in addition to the gouging out of his eyes, crucifixion and death by starvation.

About 20 Saudi Arabian nationals, reportedly all political or religious opponents of their government, were forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia in October and November, apparently without being offered access to asylum procedures. They were reported to have been arrested upon arrival and were believed to be at serious risk of torture.

During the year, Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience and for prompt and fair trials for all political prisoners. The organization also called for investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and "disappearances", and for the bringing to justice of those found responsible. Appeals were sent to the authorities calling for the commutation of all outstanding death sentences.

An Amnesty International delegation visited Yemen in June and July and raised human rights concerns with government ministers and other officials. The government undertook to address specifically the issues of arbitrary arrest, torture, "disappearances" since 1994, and human rights violations against women.

Amnesty International called for urgent translation into practice of the commitments made by the government, but no actions were known to have been taken by the end of the year.

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