EU Parliament calls for the release of Yemeni political detainees
“The Members of the Delegation Call for the immediate release of all political detainees, in accord with the GCC-brokered transitional agreement, as an essential step towards creating an atmosphere where a genuine national dialogue can take place,” reads the concluding statement of the EU Parliament’s delegation to Yemen.
Dozens of political prisoners in Yemen have been in holding in isolated cells at private detention facilities owned by the former president’s son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Republican Guard, and General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, leader of the First Armored Division, said Asa’ad Omer, director of the Protection Unit at the Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights.
“Local and international human rights organizations could not even visit detainees at detention facilities of the Republican Guard and the First Armored Division,” Omer said.
There is no accurate figure on how many political detainees are in the country, but Omer said that there are dozens, including civilians and soldiers, particularly from the popular uprising against Saleh’s 33-year reign.
There are also political detainees of the Southern Movement, who demand the separation of the south from the north, according to Omer.
“Some political prisoners have been in prisons for over two years with no real charges,” he said.
The delegation visited Sana'a Central Prison and met with juvenile prisoners sentenced to death, heard testimonies of victims of human rights violations, and held meetings with representatives of youth groups in Sana'a's Change Square, representatives of the Yemeni government, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser, various political parties, and civil society groups, according to a press release by the EU delegation to Yemen.
Omer said that calls from the EU Parliament for the release of all political detainees will not be enacted, as both the Republican Guard and First Armored Davison have yet to show any adherence to the new national unity government of President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi.
“Releasing political prisoners is not enough to create a good atmosphere for the National Dialogue Conference,” he said. “Employees who were eliminated from their jobs for their political leanings and soldiers and officers hounded out must be brought back to work.”
The delegation affirmed the need to pass a transitional justice law and establishing a national authority to investigate the violations committed during the 2011 protests.
Moreover, they demanded the prosecution of all those responsible for human rights violations, and expressed profound concern over the extensive use of the death penalty.
In addition, they called for mercy for Waleed Hussein Haikal and four other juveniles sentenced to death, and supported the government's plans to reduce the use of the death penalty against juveniles.
The delegation urged the government to take action to end child marriages by legislating a minimum legal age for marriage. Moreover, they supported the 30 percent minimum quota for women in parliament and expressed their interest in establishing an office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Yemen.
The delegation was composed of Barbara Lochbihler (chair of the Delegation, Germany), Richard Howitt (United Kingdom) and Cristian Preda (Romania).