Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1998 - Yemen, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa014c.html [accessed 27 March 2015]
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(This report covers the period January-December 1997) One prisoner of conscience remained under sentence of death for the 15th year. Scores of suspected political or religious opponents of the government, including possible prisoners of conscience, were detained during the year; at least 27 of them were on trial, some on charges carrying the death penalty. Twenty political prisoners, most of them sentenced to death, remained in prison. Torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported and at least two people were reported to have died in custody, possibly as a result of torture. The judicial punishment of flogging was widely imposed and at least three sentences of amputation were passed. The fate and whereabouts of hundreds of people who "disappeared" in previous years remained unknown. At least five people were executed and scores of others were sentenced to death. The cases of hundreds of people sentenced to death in previous years were at different stages of the appeal process. The second legislative elections since the unification of Yemen were held in April. The ruling General People's Congress (gpc) of President Ali Abdullah Saleh won 187 of the 301 seats of the Council of Deputies (parliament). Its former coalition partner, the Islamic Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Islah) party, won 53 seats. The remaining seats were won by independent candidates and smaller opposition parties. The Yemeni Socialist Party (ysp), a member of the ruling coalition until the civil war of 1994, and a number of smaller parties boycotted the elections following disagreement with the government on election procedures. One prisoner of conscience, Mansur Rajih, remained under sentence of death in Taiz Central Prison for the 15th year (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997). His sentence had not been ratified by the President at the end of the year. Scores of suspected political or religious opponents of the government, including possible prisoners of conscience, were detained during the year following waves of arrests, particularly at the end of July after a series of bomb explosions in Aden. They were arrested without warrants and denied access to family and lawyers. Those targeted for arrest included members and sympathizers of legally registered parties such as Rabitat Abna' al-Yemen, League of the Sons of Yemen, and the ysp, as well as people suspected of having links with al-Jabha al-Wataniya Lilmuardha, National Front for the Opposition, an opposition organization based abroad. Most of those arrested were released after short periods, but at least 27 of the detainees were charged in connection with the bombings in Aden and brought to trial in November before the Criminal Court of Sira in Aden. The defendants included Nabil Kanakli Kasaybati, a Spanish national of Syrian origin, who was charged with planning acts of sabotage and assassination which are punishable by death. Some of the defendants reportedly alleged that they had been tortured to force them to confess. The trial was in progress at the end of the year. Twenty political prisoners, suspected members of the former al-Jabha al- Wataniya al-Dimuqratiya, National Democratic Front (ndf), an opposition organization in the former Yemen Arab Republic, continued to serve their sentences. Most of them were under sentence of death (see Amnesty International Report1997). They included Muhammad Ahmad Abdullah al-Zahayj and Muhammad Mahdi Makhrouf, who remained in Dhamar Central Prison under sentence of death. Both were sentenced on charges of murder in 1986 following trials which fell short of international standards and despite having been previously acquitted of the charges against them. Their sentences had not been ratified by the President by the end of the year No information was available about the progress of the trial of Adam Salah al-Din Mansur, an Algerian national, and 20 Yemeni nationals that began in 1995 (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997). Torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported and at least two people were reported to have died in custody in circumstances which suggested that torture may have been a contributory factor. Wadi Sheibani and Adel al-Zabidi, who had been suspected of involvement in a series of explosions in Aden in July, died in Solaban Prison in October. The exact circumstances of their deaths were unclear. No investigation into their deaths was known to have been instigated by the end of the year. The judicial punishment of flogging was widely imposed. Defendants often had no opportunity to appeal to a higher court as most punishments were carried out immediately after the sentence was passed. In some cases, however, the verdict was subject to appeal. In May Abd al-Jabbar Saad and his brother Abdullah Saad, editor of the weekly opposition newspaper al-Shura, were sentenced to 80 lashes each after they were convicted of writing and publishing a series of articles critical of Sheikh Abd al-Majid Zendani, a leading politician in al-Islah. An appeal was believed to be in progress at the end of the year. At least three people were sentenced to amputation of limbs. In January a Court of First Instance in Hadramout province was reported to have sentenced three men to cross-amputation (severing of the right hand and the left foot) on charges of highway robbery. It was not clear whether these sentences or those passed in previous years were carried out or commuted upon appeal. The fate and whereabouts of hundreds of people who "disappeared" in previous years remained unknown. Undertakings made by the government to investigate the cases of those who "disappeared" since 1994, including Farazdaq Fuad Qaied, were apparently not implemented (see Amnesty International Report 1997) At least five people were executed during the year and scores of others were sentenced to death, often following trials which fell short of international norms for a fair trial in death penalty cases. For example, Muhammad Ahmad Mislah al-Nadhiri, a building contractor who reportedly suffered psychological problems, was publicly executed in April after he was convicted of multiple murder. He had been sentenced to death only a week earlier following a single trial hearing which lasted approximately four hours. Yahya Hadi Jazilan, a police officer, and Faisal Saleh Adham al-Amlisi were sentenced to death and public crucifixion on charges of murder. The two men were executed just two weeks later at the end of July and their bodies were displayed in the crucifix position for one day. Jalal Abdullah al-Radai and Abdullah Ali Idris al-Radai were sentenced to death and crucifixion in August on charges of highway robbery and murder following court hearings which appeared to breach international standards for fair trial. Both men were reported to have been denied access to legal assistance and were sentenced after three court sessions which appeared to have been summary. The sentences against them were upheld by a court of appeal and were believed to remain pending before the Supreme Court at the end of the year. Hundreds of people sentenced in previous years remained under sentence of death. Among them was Muhammad Hussein Ali al-Zandani, whose sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court during the year and reportedly ratified by the President in August. He was reported to have been scheduled for execution three times between August and October, but was given a stay of execution on each occasion following appeals by his lawyer and family for a review of his case, including on grounds of age. Muhammad Hussein Ali al-Zandani, whose family and lawyer argued that he was aged 16 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death on murder charges in 1995. The Penal Code prohibits the imposition of the death penalty on anyone who was under the age of 18 at the time of the offence. The death sentences on Sabah al-Difani and Ali Ahmad Qassim al-Khubayzan (see Amnesty International Report 1996) were reportedly under appeal. In March Amnesty International published a report, Ratification without implementation: The state of human rights in Yemen,which detailed the organization's human rights concerns and set out a series of recommendations designed to redress the situation. In August Amnesty International received a response to the report from the Attorney General, in which he referred to a unit to investigate reports of torture that had been established in his office as part of the undertakings made by the government during Amnesty International's visit to Yemen in 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). However, he did not mention the working methods of the unit or whether it had investigated any cases of torture. The Attorney General did not address other undertakings made by the government to address the issues of arbitrary arrest, "disappearances" since 1994 and human rights violations against women (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Amnesty International continued to call for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience and for prompt and fair trials for all political prisoners. The organization called for an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of political suspects and urged that all allegations of torture, "disappearances" and deaths in custody be investigated. Amnesty International also urged that all sentences of death, amputation and flogging be commuted.