NGOs Decry Death Sentences Against Yemen Journalists

Published: 25 May 2020

Houthis emblem.svg copyThe Houthi's emblem which reads "God is great, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam" (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

By David Klein

More than 150 non-governmental organizations have spoken out against death sentences handed down last month by a Houthi rebel court in Yemen to four journalists whose reporting the Houthis see as espionage and treason. 

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the four journalists are Abdul Khaleq Amran, editor of the Al-Islah Online website and manager of Yemen Revolution Press, Akram Al-Walidi staff manager of the and the government news agency SABA, Hareth Humaid, the head of news at Yemen Revolution Press, and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, a graphic designer at Yemen Revolution Press. 

 “These utterly unacceptable convictions are worthy of a bygone era and must be overturned without delay,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk in a statement released by the organization. 

 “The death sentences are typical of the way the Houthi rebels have systematically persecuted journalists, and are indicative of a readiness to use summary justice to settle scores with all critical media,” she said. 

Joining the chorus against the sentences is the International Press Institute which is urging the United Nations to press the Houthis to reverse the ruling. 

 “The court decision in Yemen is a gross violation of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we fear that if no action is taken immediately to bring pressure on Houthi rebels, such sentences would become common in conflict-ridden countries,” IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said in a letter sent to the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths. 

The journalists were initially detained in 2015 and had been held without trial for nearly five years before their sentencing in April. Detained along with them were six other journalists whose fates still hang in the balance. 

 According to IPI, the journalists had no representation in their trial and the Houthis’ specialized criminal courts have been known to be used to crack down on religious minorities and political opponents. 

“Journalism is not a crime,” said Prasad in IPI’s letter. “Sentencing journalists to death for doing their work is an abhorrent and unacceptable act that should be condemned by the United Nations.”