Friday, October 11, 2013

Blog #5: Unlawfully held, five men still remain behind bars in Yemen

     For more than two years in Yemen, five men have been and still are being unlawfully detained behind bars. They are being held in connection with a June 2011 mosque explosion that killed seven people and seriously injured the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. These five men that remain in custody are among some 32 people Yemeni security agents forcibly sought after allegedly linked to the incident. Of those people, 10 were released while the other 22 remaining detainees went on a hunger strike that led to an additional release of 17 people. On August 26th, the Specialized Criminal Court charged 28 of the 32 accused with being part of an armed gang intending this attack. However, the judge assigned to this case recused himself citing he could not ensure that he could deliver justice impartially due to all the media attention. The five men still remaining in detention awaiting a new judge assigned to their case, have been beaten, tortured and initially denied rights to a lawyer. Three of the men had their names appear on a presidential release form, but officials never freed them.

     Holding the five accused for over two years without a trial is a violation of Article 14 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Yemeni law. It states, “In cases where the accused are denied bail by the court, they must be tried as expeditiously as possible. All stages, whether in first instance or on appeal must take place ‘without undue delay.’” Since the day the accused men were torn from their families and detained, they have been denied legal representation and endured various torture tactics. They have recounted abuse details of solitary confinement, blindfolded and hung upside down, arms and legs tightly chained, and torment of snakes released into their cells.  Joe Stork, the acting Middle East director, stated that President Hadi’s government is acting like Yemen’s old abusive regime as they continually keep these men behind bars. He said, “Keeping people locked up against the law and presidential orders sends a message that this government doesn’t care about human rights.” He went on to explain that all their delays and detainment are not from serious investigations, but from political forces postponing the course of justice.

Elaine Etzler


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