UN urges Yemen Houthi court to review 30 death sentences

UN human rights spokeswoman said the sentenced were not given an appropriate chance to present a defense. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 July 2019
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UN urges Yemen Houthi court to review 30 death sentences

  • Most of those sentenced to death are academics, students and politicians who supported Islah party
  • Islah was part of the Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi government and is critical of Houthis

GENEVA: Thirty men were sentenced to death by Houthi authorities in Yemen this week amid credible allegations that many were tortured during three years of politically-motivated detention, the UN human rights office said on Friday.
It urged the Appellate Court in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa, which is due to review the ruling, to take into account the serious allegations and violations of their right to a fair trial and due process in the lower court.
The specialised first instance criminal court handed down the death sentences on Tuesday, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.
Most of the 30 men are academics, students and politicians “affiliated with the Islah party that has been critical of the Houthis”, she told a news briefing. She was referring to an Islamist party that is part of the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“At no point were they given a proper chance to present a defense,” Shamdasani said.
Houthi officials did not respond immediately to a Reuters request for comment.
The men were arrested in 2016 and charged in April 2017 with allegedly participating in an organised armed group intending to carry out attacks on or assassinations of security personnel and popular committees affiliated with the Houthis, and providing intelligence to other parties, Shamdasani said.
“There is a high likelihood that many of these charges are politically-motivated. There are very credible allegations of torture and mistreatment, our teams have been able to speak to families,” Shamdasani said.
“Any politically-motivated charges should be dismissed and international fair trial standards fully complied with,” she said.
Amnesty International, in a statement this week, denounced what it called a “sham trial” where the 30 men faced “trump-up charges including espionage for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.”
Detainees include Youssef Al-Bawab, a linguistics professor and political figure who was held in incommunicado detention amid allegations of torture and lack of access to legal counsel and medical care, the London-based group said. 


Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

Updated 4 min 47 sec ago
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Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

  • Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11
  • A female lawyer was detained on the evening of Jan. 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold

KHARTOUM: She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against president Omar Al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.
Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.
“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.
The fridge is part of a detention center run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.
Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel.”
Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws... because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights.”
Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicenter of the anti-Bashir revolt.
Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want.”
Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.
Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka,” or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.
Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.
On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.
The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.
Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”
For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.
“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.