Yemen Must Do Better on Human Rights

Chairwoman Hautala wrote today to the Ambassador of Yemen in Belgium expressing concern over the cases of Ms Twakkol Karman, Mr Abdulaeh Haider Shaea and Mr Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum. She hopes to discuss these matters with the Ambassador soon. [:]



31 January 2011


Yemeni Embassy in Brussels
Avenue F.D. Roosevelt 114
1050 Bruxelles



Your Excellency, Ambassador Abdul Wahab Mohammed Al Shawkani,

I am writing to you concerning the recent reports over harassment of Ms Twakkol Karman, a human rights defender and a President of Women Journalists Without Chairs and sentencing of journalist Abdulaeh Haider Shaea to five years imprisonment on 17th of January.

Before I discuss their cases, I would, however, like to make an urgent appeal. I have received reports that the Yemeni authorities are to execute Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum, who is accused of committing a murder when he was a juvenile. He was sentenced to death in September 2001 by the Criminal Court in Ibb and was scheduled to be executed on 12th of January but this was postponed.

Executing people for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old not only gravely breaches the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Yemen is a party, but also the Yemeni law. In strongest terms I appeal for the authorities to refrain from carrying out this inhumane and cruel act.

I am unable to verify any information of his situation now and would appreciate swift contact with Your Excellency to discuss the case.

As to the situation of Ms Twakkol Karman, it seems that on 26th of January she received a phone call from authorities ordering her to not leave her house and should she disobey, she would be killed. I have understood that her organisation, Women Journalists Without Chains, has given its support to a social protest movement that has begun in Yemen in the beginning of this year.

It is furthermore reported that she was arrested on 22nd and released on 26th of January. This was done by three police officers who failed to present a valid warrant for arrest. It is, however, understood that she was accused of “undermining public social peace”. The following day 18 human rights activists were reportedly arrested after they gathered to protest the detention of Ms Twakkol.

It is widely acknowledged that Ms Twakkol has played a central role in the protests calling for reforms in Yemen and against this background it would seem that she is targeted by the authorities now solely due to her human rights work.
This is unacceptable and I therefore call the Yemeni authorities to refrain from harassing her any further. Her actions are legitimate and should be respected by the authorities of the country. I furthermore recall that the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which as customary international law also binds the state of Yemen, clearly states not only that everyone has the right to promote human rights and gather peacefully, but that the State must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence and threats as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights.

As to Mr Abdulaelah Haider Shaea, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment on 17th of January by the state security Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) for his reportage of Islamist groups in the Arabian Peninsula and for his alleged connection with Al-Qaeda.

It appears that there is no evidence to support the charges against him. Indeed, like Ms Twakkol, it seems that Mr Shaea has also been targeted due to his work. Indeed, this is not a first instance he has been arrested. He was held in secret detention for 23 days in July 2010. Due to these concerns, it is vitally important that he be released without delay.

Here I would like to recall that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a party, in Article 19 guarantees everyone’s right to peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.

His detention and arrest raises also other concerns that I would like to raise. It appears that Mr Shaea was beaten badly when he was arrested on 16th of August 2010 and tortured in detention afterwards. Moreover, it has been reported that after this he was kept in incommunicado detention for 29 days. Such abuses constitute a grave violation of international law, Article 9 of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights in particular, as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, to which both Yemen is a party.

Furthermore, it has been reported that Mr Shaea is in poor health but not allowed to receive medical treatment.

I look forward to hearing from you at first opportunity.


Chairwoman of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights