Yemen Must Stop Executing its Children

At least 15 male and female teenagers have been executed by Yemen in the past five years, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch. All were under the age of 18 when they committed the alleged offenses.

Since 1994, Yemeni law has prohibited the execution of those under 18; the maximum penalty they are to serve for a capital offense is ten years.

Hooria Mashhour, the country’s human rights minister, says that the executions still occurred because the accused have often not been in possession of a birth certificate to prove their age. Mashhour also told the Guardian that the judiciary has considered it “interference by the executive branch” when the human rights ministry has sought to intervene.

Given the political chaos and stagnation in Yemen in recent years, the lack of records, even birth certificates, is perhaps not surprising and the government’s heavy-handed justice on its young people all the more appalling. Indeed, a press release from Human Rights Watch observes that, with a population of more than 24 million, Yemen has one of the lowest birth registration rates in the world. Only 22 percent of births are registered overall and only 5 percent of births among poor and rural populations.

In the wake of the Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemenis — many students and young people — staged demonstrations for months in Change Square in the capital, Sanaa, in 2011. Among their demands was for Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president for decades, to step down. A protracted struggle followed during which one of Saleh’s two generals sided with the protesters, the government lost control of its southern provinces to Islamist militants and Saleh claimed he would step down a number of times, only to withdraw his offers at the last moment.

The 30 page Human Rights Watch report describes the execution of a young woman, Hind al-Barti. She was only (according to her birth certificate) 15 at the time of a murder she was charged with. She was executed by a government firing squad on December 3, 2012. As Barti told Human Rights Watch, she had made a false confession after police officers beat her and threatened her with rape. Her family was only given a few hours notice prior to her execution.

“There is strong evidence that Hind al-Barti was just a girl when she was accused of murder, yet she was sentenced – and received – the ultimate punishment. The Yemeni government should have reduced her sentence if there was any reason to believe she was under 18 at the time of the crime,” says Priyanka Motaparthy, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The Human Rights Watch report describes other juveniles accused of crimes who said they had been physically abused and tortured into making false confessions:

“They beat me with their hands, sometimes they would electro-shock me until I fell down,” said Ibrahim al-Omaisy, one of the youths Human Rights Watch interviewed. “At that point if they had asked me,‘Did you kill 1,000?’ I would have said yes out of fear.”

[Walid Hussein] Haikal told Human Rights Watch that he was accused of murdering a man from his neighborhood in 2000, when he was in the seventh grade. He said that after his arrest, he spent two months at the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigations Division, and that police beat and tortured him throughout his time there, leading him to make a false confession.

Yemen’s current president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has been in office for the past year and sought to restore some kind of order to a faction-ruled nation whose economic situation has gone from poor to precarious. Human Rights Watch is calling on him to reverse the executions orders of three juveniles — Mohammed Taher Sumoom, Walid Hussein Haikal, and Mohammad al-Tawil — on death row. They have exhausted all appeals and could be brought before a firing squad at any moment.



As Motaparthy says, “Sending child offenders before firing squads is hardly the way for Yemen to show that it respects human rights.”


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Photo from Thinkstock


louise m.
louise m4 years ago

these kids r the next generation of this country. i dont think this is the rite way to handle these situations. i dont think the punishment fits the crimes, although i didnt see any reasons given as to what the crimes were that these kids committed, so i have to express my opinion, that this is not the way to a just and fair. government.... i say stop killing these kids!!

Sabine I.
Past Member 4 years ago


Marc Hill

That's islam (yes, that horrible ideology with a pedophile as its idol). Ban it!

Stephanie Reap
Stephanie Reap5 years ago

What horrible conditions!! Taking a life to prove taking lives is wrong, never made sense to me!!

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim5 years ago

The death penalty solves anything? Nobody has the right to take anyone's life, except for self defense of your life.

James Campbell
James Campbell5 years ago

Elaine A. Absolutely correct.

George Junius Stinney Jr. was just 14 when he was executed in the electric chair in the United States in 1944.

Neither the USA nor Europe can claim to be fair and equal in such matters. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the USA in 1976, 22 people have been executed for crimes committed while they were under the age of 18, one as young as 16, although delays due to appeals meant that the executions took place after the condemned reached the age of 18.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY Allen5 years ago

Although, the US is hopefully nowhere near this bad, we are not so great here either. Sure, this type of thing would not happen to the suburban kid who might break the law, but hardly any better is happening to our inner city youth who are so lost in today's society for any number of reasons - take your pick. And now, with the religious right, bound and determined to cram their morals down everyone's throats while doing everything in their power to take over our government, it's not a far leap to horrors like this here in the US. No, we're not there yet, but if we let down our guard and let the religious nuts gain more control, we could be there in no time.

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Not only in Yemen.
By the way, Saudi Arabia is considered a staunch ALLY of the U.S. - because of all the OIL, of course!
"Saudis postpone crucifixion, firing-squad executions
By ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI/Associated Press/RIYADH, Saudi Arabia —
A Saudi security official says executions of seven Saudis sentenced to death by crucifixion and firing squad have been postponed for a week.
He said King Abdullah would review the sentences. He met families of the seven on Sunday.
The official said on Tuesday that the ruler of the southwestern province of Asir, Prince Faisal bin Abdel Aziz, ordered the postponement. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The seven were juveniles at the time they were arrested for armed robbery, a capital offense in Saudi Arabia. One told The Associated Press by telephone from prison that they were tortured to force confessions and barred access to lawyers.
Human rights groups called on the Saudi government to cancel the executions."

Jane L.
Jane L5 years ago

that is so scary, to be a teenager and having to bear the heavy responsibility of proving your innocence to a bunch of grown-ups looking to kill you. i don't think that's a sound justice system, for the people who are implementing it are the murderers.

Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone5 years ago

how can countries treat there people, especially the children like this and expect the rest of the world to consider them civilized