JOINTSTATEMENT BY HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS
Human Rights Groups CondemnArbitrary Detention of Yemeni Human Rights Defenders and Urge Authorities toPermit Advocates to Freely Travel and Conduct Human Rights Work
June 19, 2018
The undersigned human rights and civil libertiesorganizations condemn the unlawful detention yesterday of Radhya Almutawakeland Abdulrasheed Alfaqih, two prominent Yemeni human rights defenders withMwatana Organization for Human Rights, and call on all parties to the armedconflict in Yemen to respect the work of human rights advocates.
Authorities working at government-controlled Seiyun cityairport detained the advocates on June 18, 2018, as they were preparing totravel abroad to an event at the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Oslo,Norway. The authorities confiscated Almutawakel and Alfaqih’s telephones andother personal belongings, and held the advocates for approximately 12 hours.The advocates were given no reasons for the detention, but were told by thedetaining Yemeni government security forces that they were not permitted totravel and were being arrested at the behest of the Saudi and United ArabEmirates (UAE)-led Coalition. After their release, they received furtherthreats from officials that they could be detained again soon.
The actions of the governments are in breach of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the right toliberty and to be free from arbitrary detention (Article 9), the right toliberty of movement and to leave any country (Article 12), and the rights tofreedom of expression (Article 19), peaceful assembly (Article 21), andassociation (Article 22). The detentions also undermine government commitmentsin The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United NationsGeneral Assembly in Resolution A/RES/53/144, which protects the rights of humanrights advocates to promote human rights at the national and internationallevels.
The arbitrary detention of Almutawakel and Alfaqih comes ata time when the United Nations considers Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis inthe world. Yemen’s war continues, in which all sides have committed severehuman rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Millionsof Yemenis are suffering from the devastating consequences of violationscommitted by the Saudi-led Coalition, the Houthis and other armed groupsincluding al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE-led offensive on the portof Hodeidah, critical for the supply of humanitarian aid to the country,threatens to exacerbate this already dire situation.
The work of Radhya Almutawakel, Abdulrasheed Alfaqih, andother human rights defenders to document the rights violations in Yemen istherefore all the more vital to ensure that the global community remainsinformed of the rights situation in one of the most underreported conflicts inthe world.
The detentions of Almutawakel and Alfaqih are part of apattern of harassment and repression of human rights work in Yemen committed byall sides. Alfaqih was briefly detained by authorities loyal to YemeniPresident Hadi on June 14, 2018. In 2017, the Yemeni embassy in Washington,D.C. wrote a letter to U.S. Senators attacking the reputation of Mwatana.The Houthis have repeatedly beaten, threatened, harassed, and detained representativesof Mwatana and other advocates. More than ten journalists remain arbitrarilyand unlawfully detained by the Houthis since early 2015. Throughout theconflict, human rights defenders and journalists have been harassed,threatened, beaten, arbitrarily detained, and forcibly disappeared in bothgovernment and Houthi-controlled territory.
The undersigned groups call on the Yemeni governmentauthorities and the Saudi and UAE-led Coalition authorities to provide fullreparations for the unlawful detention of Almutawakel and Alfaqih, includingpublic acknowledgment of wrongdoing, apology, and a commitment to refrain fromany further hindrance of human rights work, including any threats of detentionor restrictions on travel. The groups call on all sides to the conflict,including the Houthis, to respect the rights of human rights defenders. Thesignatories also call on other states, particularly those allied with or whosupport the warring parties, to urge the parties to the conflict to uphold therights of defenders, to increase their efforts in ending all human rightsabuses, and to cease ongoing law of war violations in Yemen.
We stand in solidarity with our human rights advocate colleaguesin Yemen.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Control Arms Coalition
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights Clinic (Columbia Law School)
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) within theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Rights Watch (UK)
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) within theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders