Nine men sentenced to death by ‘crucifixion and stoning’ for alleged sodomy by Houthi court

SANA'A, YEMEN - JANUARY 11: Yemeni protestors loyal to the Houthi movement lift their rifles as they participate in a protest held against Israel's ongoing war on Gaza and threats of the U.S. and UK amid U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's warning of a military response to rebel attacks in the Red Sea on January 11, 2024 in Sanaa, Yemen. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

Nine men were sentenced to death by a Houthi court in Yemen in a mass trial based on “dubious” charges of sodomy, a human rights organisation has said. 

The Houthi movement, officially known as Ansar Allah, is a Shia Islamist political and military organisation which emerged in Yemen in the 1990s. Houthi militants control large parts of the country, and are known to persecute LGBTQ+ folks using arbitrary arrest, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, threats and harassment.

The trial, which allegedly took place on 23 January, saw 32 men sentenced. Nine of them were handed death sentences that include crucifixion and stoning, whilst 23 were sent to prison for periods of up to 10 years. Three of these men were also sentenced to public flogging.

Commenting on the situation, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch Niku Jafarnia called the mass trial an “abhorrent disregard for the rule of law”. 

“The Houthis are handing down death sentences and subjecting men to public mistreatment without a semblance of due process.

“The Houthis are using these cruel measures to distract from their failure to govern and provide people in their territories with basic needs.”

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“To cover up their brutality, Houthis are charging people with immoral acts, especially for those who oppose them,” Jafarnia continued.  

“The Houthis should immediately end the use of the death penalty and other forms of cruel and degrading punishments and provide due process for those charged.”

Human Rights Watch reviewed official indictment documents against the men issued by the Houthi court, as well as videos of the court proceedings which were posted on social media and interviewed a lawyer with knowledge of the case. 

The organisation found there were violations of Yemen’s due process including police officers failing to provide arrest warrants and unlawfully searching and confiscating the men’s phones. 

The lawyer also questioned whether men who were charged with the crimes had access to legal counsel.

Human Rights Watch’s findings follow previous reports in February that 13 men were sentenced to death for crimes related to homosexuality. 

The death sentences were handed down in Ibb, an area controlled by the Houthis rebels, with Jafarnia saying at the time whilst the “world is busy watching their attacks in the Red Sea” the Houthis “are ramping up their abuses at home”