Prisoners lie in a newly renovated cell in Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura, in this May 9, 2017 photo in Aden, Yemen. Another, closed section of the prison is part of a network of secret detention facilities run by the United Arab Emirates…
FILE - Prisoners lie in a cell in Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura.

GENEVA - The UN Human Rights Office is calling on Yemen’s Appellate Court to dismiss the death sentences handed down on 30 people earlier this week by the Houthi authorities in the capital Sana’a.

Most of the 30 men sentenced to death are academics, students and politicians.  The UN human rights office says they have been affiliated with the Islah party, a group that has been critical of the Houthis.  

The Houthi rebels, believed to be backed by Iran, have been at war with the Saudi-backed Government of Yemen for more than four years.

Human rights spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani says the men have been languishing in prison since their arrest in 2016.   She says they were charged in 2017.  While they have had dozens of hearings in court since then, she says none has been able to present a proper defense.

“The arrests also took place without warrants for the most part and they were held without being brought to a court for several months or up to a year in many cases…And suddenly, in fact it came as a surprise to all of us," said Shamdasani. "Suddenly on Tuesday, the court read out the judgement and the convictions and the sentencing.”

FILE - Oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz, Dec. 21, 2018.
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The 30 men are charged with allegedly participating in an organized armed group with the intention of carrying out criminal, violent acts against Houthi affiliated committees and personnel.  Shamdasani says the convictions and sentences reportedly will be appealed.

“This is why we felt it important to come out now and speak about the high likelihood that many of these charges are politically motivated, that there are very credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment," said Shamdasani. "Our colleagues on the ground in Yemen have been able to interview some of the detainees and their families and to document these allegations.” 

Shamdasani says it is clear the defendants have been denied their right to a fair trial and due process.  She says the court should dismiss any politically motivated charges and abide by international fair trial standards.



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