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Yemen: UN experts urge Houthi authorities to halt imminent execution of human rights defender Fatima Al-Arwali

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Press release

Geneva – February 22, 2024


UN experts have called on the Ansar Allah or Houthi movement, the de facto authorities in Sana’a and much of northern Yemen, to immediately cease the impending execution of human rights defender Fatima Saleh Al-Arwali. The experts argue that her execution, scheduled for 21 February 2024 in Tahrir Square, Sana’a, would not only constitute an arbitrary act but also a blatant violation of international human rights law and standards.

Al-Arwali, the former head of the Yemen office of the Women’s Leadership Union and leader of the Habitat Organization for Human Rights Development, has been in custody since August 2022 under appalling conditions. Reports indicate that she has been held incommunicado, without access to a judicial authority, and deprived of contact with relatives or a legal advisor of her choice.

The court, established by the Houthi de facto authorities, sentenced Al-Arwali to death on 5 December 2023, citing vague charges of “espionage and aiding hostile parties.” The UN experts express concern over the lack of due process guarantees and the right to defense during her trial. They also note credible allegations of ill-treatment, including gender-based violence, raising serious questions about the fairness of the legal proceedings.

The experts emphasize that Al-Arwali’s death sentence appears to contradict fundamental principles and rules of international law, urging the de facto authorities in Sana’a to conduct a prompt and fair review of her case by basic international principles of a fair trial devoid of gender discrimination.

The arbitrary deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearance, and ill-treatment, including gender-based violence, which Al-Arwali reportedly endured before her death sentence, are denounced by UN experts. They express alarm at the possibility that these acts retaliated for her work as a human rights defender.

The international community is called upon to observe this critical situation, with the UN experts asserting that Al-Arwali’s execution would violate the most basic rules of international law and norms regarding the death penalty and the protection of women and girls’ rights. The experts issued a powerful plea to the relevant authorities to intervene and prevent what they described as a breach of fundamental human rights. As the execution date looms, the world remains vigilant, underscoring the urgency of halting this profoundly troubling development.

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