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Yemen Court must not punish faith with death – UN experts

29 April 2019


GENEVA (29 April 2019) – UN human rights experts* have urged the de facto authorities in Sana’a to quash immediately the death sentence against Hamid Kamali bin Haydara, a follower of the Bahá’í faith.

"We cannot accept the injustice of having anyone punished by death on the grounds of his religion or belief and for belonging to a religious minority," the experts said.

"Not only would such a sentence amount to a serious violation of an internationally protected human right, but the Court would also be sending a wrong signal to the whole nation and the world if it upheld the decision of a death sentence against Haydara. 

"The right to life and the right to freedom of religion or belief are non-derogable rights and must be respected at all times," the experts said.

The Specialized Criminal Court handed down a death sentence on Haydara on 2 January 2018, for "compromising the independence of the Republic of Yemen",  based on unfounded allegations of his collaboration with Israel and members of the global Jewish community, as well as for spreading the Bahá’í faith in the country. Haydara’s appeal against the decision was last heard on 2 April 2019 in Sana’a.

"The charge of ‘compromising the independence of the Republic of Yemen’ does not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes' warranting the death penalty under international law," the experts said.

"We deplore the blatant denial of the right of individuals to choose, have or adopt a religion or belief of their choice, and are deeply disturbed by the Prosecutor’s use of his personal religious commitments as a basis to reject the validity of the case made by the appellant.

"Not only did the Prosecutor demonise and deride the Bahá’í faith in his memo, but openly threatened anyone working in Haydara’s defence to be considered as a traitor to the nation and religion.

"The de facto authorities should release Haydara promptly following the annulment of his death sentence, and desist from harassing or intimidating defence lawyers."

The experts urged the Yemeni Government and the de facto authorities to respond to their concerns and end the persecution of the Bahá’í community in Yemen.


*The UN experts: Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, current Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mr. Fernand de Varennes RP, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Councils independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

UN Human Rights, country page: Yemen

For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Chian Yew Lim (+ 41 22 917 99 38 / [email protected]