The United Nations human rights office says that a court run by Yemen‘s Houthi rebels has sentenced 30 men to death, adding that it has received “credible” allegations that many were tortured during three years of detention that appeared to be politically motivated.
Those sentenced were accused of spying for the Saudi-UAE led coalition, which intervened against the Houthis in March 2015, shortly after the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa.
“The UN Human Rights Office has received credible information suggesting that many of those convicted were subjected to arbitrary or unlawful detention, as well as torture,” rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters on Friday.
The court handed down the death sentences on Tuesday, Shamdasani said.
Most of the 30 men are academics, students and politicians “affiliated with the Islah party that has been critical of the Houthis”, she said.
Shamdasani was referring to the party that is part of the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“At no point were they given a proper chance to present a defence,” Shamdasani said.
The men were arrested in 2016 and charged in April 2017 with allegedly participating in an organised armed group intending to carry out attacks on or assassinations of security personnel and popular committees affiliated with the Houthis, and providing intelligence to other parties, Shamdasani said.
“There is a high likelihood that many of these charges are politically-motivated. There are very credible allegations of torture and mistreatment, our teams have been able to speak to families,” Shamdasani said.
“Any politically-motivated charges should be dismissed and international fair trial standards fully complied with,” she said.
Amnesty International, in a statement this week, denounced what it called a “sham trial” where the 30 men faced “trump-up charges including espionage for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition”.
Detainees include Youssef al-Bawab, a linguistics professor and political figure who was held in incommunicado detention amid allegations of torture and lack of access to legal counsel and medical care, the London-based group said.
Yemen’s conflict – the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN – has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say, and left millions displaced and in need of aid.