Four Yemeni journalists tortured, denied medical care by Houthi captors

Held by the Houthis since 2015 and under sentence of death since 2020, four Yemeni journalists are being subjected to inhuman conditions and are in danger of dying anyway. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this cruel treatment and calls for their immediate release so that they can receive medical treatment.

We call for these four journalists to be freed and for their convictions to be overturned,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Even if the Houthis do not carry out their death sentences, everything is being done to kill them slowly by means of torture, psychological abuse and denial of medical care. We will hold the Houthis responsible for their fate.

Repeated calls from their families have changed nothing. The four Yemeni journalists, who were convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia, suffer from health problems and are victims of medical neglect. Despite an appeal filed by their lawyer, their case has not advanced. Tawfik Al-Mansouri, Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi and Hareth Humaid are still waiting to learn their fate. In 2015, when the Houthis seized them in Sanaa, they were working for media close to the Islah Party, which is the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and is linked to the government recognised by the international community and opposed to the Houthis.

Al-Mansouri contributed to the daily Al-Masdar until its closure at the start of the Arab coalition’s intervention in 2015. According to his family, “confirmed reports indicate that his life is in great danger and that he needs to be transferred to a hospital, which the Houthis have refused for months.” His health problems date back to at least two years ago, when RSF warned that he was suffering from diabetes, respiratory problems and rheumatism. In June 2022, the Red Cross managed to visit him in his cell and gave his family a letter he had written, but failed to convince the Houthis to provide him with medical care.

Al-Walidi, who worked for the website and the official news agency SABA, managed to communicate with his family by phone a few months ago. "I have excruciating pain in all my joints" he said. Amran, who edited the Al-Islah Online website and ran the Yemen Revolution Press, was isolated from his three fellow prisoners in 2021. He also managed to send a letter describing what he has had to endure in prison. Humaid, who covered Houthi abuses for the same media outlet, was forced under torture to confess to acts he did not commit.

As their health continues to worsen, the mistreatment is leading to serious complications. The methods are as diverse as they are cruel and include food deprivation and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, as well as denial of medical care.

The Houthis often threaten them. “You will meet again at the place where you are hanged,” they were told in September 2021. “The warden of the prison, Abu Shehab Al-Mortada, told the detainees he would end their lives quietly, and we think that medical neglect is the way this threat is being carried out,” Al-Mansouri’s family said. The head of the prison and National Committee for Prisoners, Abdulqader Mortada, meanwhile said he had received “directives to treat prisoners as guests.”

More than 100 NGOs, including RSF, issued a call to save the four journalists in May 2020. Negotiations between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government, held under the aegis of the United Nations, resulted in a prisoner exchange agreement in March 2022. RSF called for these four journalists to be included in the agreement, but they continue to be held hostage by the Houthis.

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