GENEVA (10 October 2018) – Apostasy and spying charges brought against 24 people in Yemen, mostly from the Baha’i minority, must be dropped and discriminatory practices based on religion or belief should be outlawed, UN experts said.
On 15 September 2018, criminal proceedings were initiated against the 24 individuals among whom at least 22 are Bahá’ís, including eight women and a minor at Sana’a Specialized Criminal Court. The defendants were not investigated nor were they informed by the prosecution of the pending charges against them prior at the start of the trials.
The charges include apostasy, the teaching of the Bahá’i faith, and espionage, the latter punishable with the death penalty if convicted.
“We are very concerned at the criminal prosecution of these persons based on charges connected to their religion or belief,” said the UN experts. “We are particularly concerned that some of the charges include crimes that carry the death penalty.”
On 29 September 2018, five of the indicted individuals, who remain in detention appeared before the court. The judge ordered that the names of the remaining 19 indicted individuals be published in a local newspaper.
“We reiterate our call to the de facto authorities in Sana’a to put an immediate stop to the persistent persecution of Bahá’ís in Yemen and to release those arrested due to their religion or belief,” the UN experts said, adding that international human rights obligations apply to de facto authorities exercising effective control.
The next hearing is scheduled 40 days following the court hearing of 29 September 2018.