Human rights activist call for release of Sa’ada detainees [Archives:2008/1183/Local News]

August 21 2008

SANA'A, Aug. 19 – Warning about the results of crimes against humanity, beginning documentation of violations, arranging a group visit to the Political Security Prison and continuing to pressure the Yemeni government to release all detainees were all actions discussed at a symposium regarding Sa'ada war detainees.

Arranged by Yemeni Organization to Defend Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms, the Changing Organization, Yemen Observatory for Human Rights, Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights and Hiwar Forum, as well as several families of Sa'ada detainees, the symposium was held at the Yemen Times office on Tuesday, attended by a number of detainees' families, journalists, human rights activists, politicians and Member of Parliament Sultan Al-Samae'.

According to the Yemeni Organization to Defend Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms, nearly 135 people have been detained, 26 of whom disappeared arbitrarily after armed conflict between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels in Sa'ada and Bani Hushaish ended.

The organization distributed a list of 56 names of those alleged to have “arbitrarily disappeared” in Sana'a, demanding the immediate release of those detainees who haven't been charged and revealing their location.

The organization maintains that many were seized after the conflict was called off by President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Aug. 7.

Sami Ghalib, editor-in-chief of Al-Nida'a opposition newspaper, criticized opposition parties' weak rule regarding such detainees. He also condemned security forces' charging of those belonging to the Zaidi sect of Islam.

“Arresting on the basis of ethnic and sectarian characteristics is a serious phenomenon,” noted Mohammed Al-Maqtari, executive director of the Yemen Observatory for Human Rights.

He alleges that such arrests occurred after the announced ceasefire of the Sa'ada War, which violates Yemeni law and the Constitution, as well as international agreements Yemen has signed. Al-Maqtari added, “Political Security and National Security prisons are not under the authority of Yemeni judicial organizations, so no one can penalize them.”

Amal Al-Basha, head of the Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights, criticized the Yemeni government's carelessness regarding political detainees' issues at a time of continued talk about democracy and freedom. She mentioned Sudan as an example of the result of such crimes against humanity. Al-Maqtari urged all other human rights activists and NGOs, as well as international organizations, to support the Sa'ada detainees' families and pressure the Yemeni government to release them.