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Yemen: UN experts call for release of disappeared Bahá'ís

19 June 2023

GENEVA (19 June 2023) – UN experts* today called for the urgent release of 16 Bahá’ís abducted by de facto authorities in Yemen last month. They issued the following statement:

“We are deeply concerned about the fate of 16 Baháʼís disappeared by the Houthi militia in Sana'a four weeks ago, whose whereabouts remain unknown. We urge the de facto authorities to release them immediately and refrain from any further action that may jeopardise their physical and psychological integrity. The abduction of these individuals and the concealment of their fate and whereabouts are acts tantamount to enforced disappearance.

On 25 May 2023, a group of 17 Baháʼís were peacefully gathered in a private residence to elect the religious community's national governing body when Houthi gunmen wearing balaclavas suddenly stormed the meeting. The gunmen then   abducted and brought the 17 Baháʼís to an unknown location with the intention of prosecuting them. Only one of them has since been released, while the fate and whereabouts of the remaining 16 – including five women – remain unknown.

For several years, we have expressed concern about patterns of violations that depict a scenario of targeted persecution of religious minorities in Yemeni areas controlled by the Ansar Allah movement (also known as the Houthis).

On various occasions, Baháʼís and members of other religious minorities have been subjected to detention, torture, and ill-treatment by the de facto authorities in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and opinion, of peaceful assembly and of association. Some were sentenced to death for professing their religion in judicial proceedings that failed to meet fair trial guarantees.

We are concerned that the disappeared individuals are at serious risk of torture and other human rights violations and, given the past record, may even face death sentences in connection with the legitimate exercise of their rights.

Violations against religious or belief minorities are exacerbated by hate speech that may amount to incitement to hatred, hostility, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.  On 2 June 2023, during the Friday sermon, the Houthi Grand Mufti in Sana'a launched a violent verbal attack against Bahá'ís in Yemen, accusing them of seeking to harm the country and calling on society and militias to unite against the beliefs that Bahá'ís uphold.

Hate speech and incitement to hatred, hostility and discrimination against religious minorities are intended to drive a wedge in society, which is particularly worrying at a time when peace negotiations are underway. Such expressions threaten the life and integrity of the entire Baháʼí community, as well as those of other religious or belief minorities present in the country.”


The experts: Ms. Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or beliefMr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority issues; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska, Ana Lorena Delgadillo Perez, Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearancesMs. Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Mr. Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Ms. Ganna Yudkivska (Vice-Chair on Follow-Up), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mr. Mumba Malila, Working Group on arbitrary detention

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s 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.

For further information or media enquiries please contact Erik Fattorelli ([email protected]) and Helle Iversen ([email protected]) or write to [email protected]

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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