The Yemeni government issued a letter to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), requesting its assistance for the release of journalists currently detained, tortured, and sentenced to death by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
In a letter obtained from Qorvis Communications, a company which represents the Yemen Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Yemeni government notes that at the moment, the Houthis have a total of 16 journalists in detention on falsified conspiracy charges. “These are Yemeni citizens whose human rights are violated every day they spend in captivity,” the letter reads.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the Iran-supported Houthis rebels have the second-highest rate of journalist hostages in the Middle East – second only to ISIS.
Ten journalists – Hassan Enab, Essam Bilghaith, Abdulkhalek Amran, Tawfiq al-Mansouri, Hesham Tarmoom, Salah al-Kaadee, Hesham al-Yousefi, Haitham al-Shehab, Harith Hamid and Akram a-Walid – have been held by the Houthis since 2015 and facing execution for false allegations. The detained journalists are also on a hunger strike.
“Some of the detained journalists work for media outlets regarded as sympathetic to any political party in Yemen that supports the legitimate government. As Ambassador of Yemen to the United States, I assure you that all Yemeni civilians have a right to free speech and a free press. Unfortunately, the Houthi leadership does not share these values, and has persecuted Yemeni citizens for expressing their personal and political beliefs,” Yemeni ambassador Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak writes in the letter.
Mubarak further states that although in recent years, the U.S. and the international community have rightfully condemned increasing attacks on journalism and free press, “sadly, the detention and death sentence of Yemeni journalists has not resulted in such an international outcry.”
“Unfortunately, the Houthis’ treatment of these journalists goes beyond simple imprisonment. Prisoners of the Houthi militia frequently suffer beatings, torture, and starvation, with little regard for their basic human rights and dignity,” Mubarak says.
According to reports from Amnesty International’s sources, there have been many incidents of torture and ill-treatment of captive journalists by the Houthis, including brutal beatings and solitary confinement.
In the case of the 16 detained journalists, the Houthis are punishing them just because they have doing their jobs, Mubarak adds.
“We cannot allow more journalists to die as a result of Houthi captivity and torture. The world must speak out against these atrocities and make it clear to the Houthis that killing journalists is unacceptable.”
Therefore, the CPJ should “make a public declaration calling for the appropriate measures to be applied against Houthi leadership for the immediate release of the captive journalists; issue a public letter to Iran – the government with the greatest influence on the Houthis; write a private letter to UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, in which they will demand UN intervention, and issue a private letter to the Congress, whose leadership is crucial to applying international pressure to the make the Houthis respect international human rights law.”
The Yemeni Ambassador concludes the letter by pointing out that “the CPJ now has the opportunity to play a key leadership role in galvanizing the support of other international organizations to raise awareness of these crimes and put a stop to the Houthis breach of essential human rights.”