Fatma al-Arwali’s Unfair Trial

Fatma al-Arwali, a woman human rights activist, was arrested by the Houthi authorities in August 2022 on charges of providing aid to an enemy country. The Houthis are an armed group in Yemen. As of 2020, they control two-thirds of Yemen’s territory, home to some 33 million people.

The Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms has documented more than 127,000 human rights violations committed by the Houthi militia in Yemen between September 2014 and June 2022. These violations include the killing of 14,557 civilians, the wounding of 33,438 people, and the arrest of some 16,804 civilians, of whom 4,201 are still detained. Those abducted include politicians, media workers, children and women.

It is in this context that Fatma al-Arwali’s story fits. Since her arrest, she has suffered a series of flagrant human rights violations at the hands of the security and intelligence services, including enforced disappearance, incommunicado detention, and prolonged pre-trial detention. His right to a fair trial has been jeopardized by his lack of access to a lawyer, including during the first session of the trial on the 19th of September. In detail, on the 13th of August 2022, she was stopped at a checkpoint and subjected to enforced disappearance for eight months. Her family was unable to find out anything about her. Her family was later informed of their daughter’s whereabouts: she was in a detention center in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

Amnesty International drafted a letter addressed to Mohamed Abdelsalam, Yemen’s Houthis spokesman, voicing its concerns about the future that awaits Fatma al-Arwali. She was in fact subjected to trial by the Houthi-controlled specialized criminal court that sentenced her to death. Amnesty International sets the focus on the nature of the trial, stating that she was not granted the right to a fair trial.  Her lawyer stated that he couldn’t visit her anytime while she was being detained. During the trial, it was also tried by the security member of the security and intelligence services to escort the lawyer out of the court. On this occasion, the judge added that Fatma al-Arwali did not need a lawyer anymore. In accordance with global norms of equity, individuals apprehended or held in custody, as well as those confronted with criminal allegations, are entitled to select their legal representative. This provision empowers them to safeguard their rights, formulate their defense, and contest their confinement. Moreover, this entitlement acts as a crucial barrier against torture and other forms of maltreatment, while also diminishing the likelihood of coerced admissions. In conclusion, Amnesty International asks the authorities to release Fatma al-Arwali if international standards of fairness cannot be met.

In light of the numerous human rights violations perpetrated by the Houthi militia in Yemen, the case of Fatma al-Arwali underscores the dire situation faced by many individuals in the region. Despite international standards mandating fair treatment and legal representation for those accused, al-Arwali’s ordeal exemplifies the flagrant disregard for these principles by the Houthi-controlled specialized criminal court. This case serves to highlight the continuing struggle for human rights and justice in conflict-affected regions such as Yemen, where protecting fundamental freedoms remains paramount.

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