Amnesty International Report Cites Unlawful Killings and Torture Linked to Yemen's Counter-Terrorism Campaign

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Report Cites Unlawful Killings and Torture Linked to Yemen's Counter-Terrorism Campaign

Yemen Abandons Respect for Human Rights in Response to U.S. Pressure to Counter Terrorism, Report Says

LONDON - Under pressure from the United
States and others to confront threats from al-Qaeda, along with Zaidi Shi'a
rebels in the north and growing demands for secession in the South, the
Yemini government is using national security as a pretext to stifle criticism
and reject human rights in a campaign of unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary
arrests and unfair trials, Amnesty International charged in a new report
today.

The human rights organization said the downward
spiral in respect for human rights documented in the report, Yemen:
Cracking Down Under Pressure,
includes unlawful killings of those accused
of links to al-Qaeda and Southern Movement activists, enforced disappearances,
arbitrary arrests, torture and unfair trials.

Aliya Ibrahim al-Wazir described how
she and six other women relatives of detainees organized a sit-down protest
near al-Salih Mosque in Sana'a in September 2009. "I was beaten by
the police women. I held a photo of my husband and they tried to take the
photo from me. When I refused they hit me in the face and on my mouth,
blood came out of my mouth
."

Yemenis accused of supporting the Huthis who
are armed Zaidi Shi'a rebels in the northern Sa'dah region, or the Southern
Movement, have also been targeted for arbitrary detention, unfair trials
in specialized courts and beatings. Journalists, dissenters, human rights
defenders, and critics of the government are subject to the same abuses.

Some have been subjected to enforced disappearance
for weeks or months by largely unaccountable security agencies that report
directly to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"An extremely worrying trend has developed
where the Yemeni authorities, under pressure from the United States and
others to fight al-Qa'ida, and Saudi Arabia to deal with the Huthis, have
been citing national security as a pretext to deal with opposition and
stifle all criticism," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director
for the Middle East and North Africa Program."All
measures taken in the name of countering terrorism or other security challenges
in Yemen must have at its heart the protection of human rights."

The number of death sentences passed in trials
of people accused of having links to al-Qaeda, or to the Huthi armed group
has noticeably increased. In 2009, at least 34 people accused of links
to Huthi armed groups were sentenced to death.
 
The security forces have killed at least
113 people since 2009 in operations the government says target "terrorists."
Attacks have become more frequent since December 2009 with security forces
in some cases making no attempt to detain suspects before killing them.

At least 41 people were killed, 21 of them
children and 14 of them women, on December, 17, 2009 when their settlement
in al-Ma'jalah area in the southern district of Abyan was hit by missiles.

"The Yemeni authorities have a duty to ensure
public safety and to bring to justice those engaged in attacks that deliberately
target members of the public, but when doing so, they must abide by international
law," said Smart. "Enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment,
and extrajudicial executions are never permissible, and the Yemeni authorities
must immediately cease these violations."

"It is particularly worrying that states
such as Saudi Arabia and the U.S.A. are directly or indirectly aiding the
Yemeni government in a downward spiral away from previously improving human
rights record."

The Southern Movement is a loose coalition
of individuals, political groups and other organizations advocating for
greater rights for people in the south, with origins tracing back to the
1994 civil war between northern and southern Yemen. Many factions of the
Movement now call for the south to secede from the rest of Yemen.

Huthis, followers of Hussain Badr al-Din
al-Huthi in the region of Sa'dah, have been fighting the government since
2004. Beginning as a protest over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it developed
into armed conflict particularly after the killing of their leader by the
government.

The Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) was
created in the name of ‘countering terrorism' in 1999 and expanded in
2004; three additional SCCs were then established in 2009. The SCC has
been used to convict people such as journalists covering the conflict in
Sa'dah, or grievances expressed by the Southern Movement.  Hundreds
have been tried by the SCC since its establishment.

This court is now being used by the Yemeni
authorities against a wide range of people whose activities or disclosures
are considered hostile or harmful to the government.

Qassem Askar Jubran, former diplomat, and
Fadi Ba'oom, political activist, were arrested in April 2009, charged
with "harming the independence of the Republic" and "the unity of Yemen"
and for organizing protests in aid of the Southern Movement. Both were
sentenced to five years' imprisonment in March 2010, and have since been
released.

"All they have against him is involvement
in the Southern Movement, writing in al-Ayyam newspaper, attending
gatherings," Salah Askar Jubran, Qassem's brother told Amnesty International
in March.

The creation of the Specialized Press and
Publications Court (SPPC) in May 2009 was widely seen as a government attempt
to suppress non-violent opposition and the expression of critical views
in the media.

Anissa Uthman, a journalist working for al-Wassat
newspaper, is among several journalists and editors tried by the SPPC.
In her absence she was sentenced to three months' imprisonment in January
2010 on charges of defaming President Saleh. According to reports, she
was prosecuted because of articles she wrote criticizing the arrest and
imprisonment of human rights activists.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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