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UN Committee against Torture deeply concerned about attacks against human rights defenders

(CIHRS/IFEX) - Geneva, 25 May 2010 - The UN Committee against Torture (CAT), which reviewed the situation of torture in Yemen on 6 May, expressed deep concern about allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Yemeni prisons. The Committee expressed particular concern about attacks against human rights defenders who participated in the November 2009 review of Yemen. Specifically, the experts expressed "concern at reports of threats against, and intimidation and harassment of, members of the non-governmental organization, Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights."

In an effort to silence human rights defenders and prevent them from publicizing human rights violations internationally, the Yemeni authorities began subjecting SAF and the organization's chairperson, Amal Al-Basha, to various attacks. Their offices were raided and vandalized, Ms. Bashas's car brakes were sabotaged, and she received numerous intimidating phone calls and was attacked and had her face sprayed with a mysterious liquid. The Committee stated that it "deeply regrets that the State party has not replied to the letter sent by the Committee's Chairperson on 3 December 2009 that addressed these allegations."

"We welcome the many strong recommendations regarding the death penalty, sexual violence against women in detention, and the incommunicado detention and arrest of political activists and journalists," said Ms. Basha. The practice of floggings, beatings, and cutting off limbs, which is still carried out and prescribed by law, was also addressed by the CAT.

There is fear that there will be a repeat of the retaliatory attacks against Yemeni NGOs. Therefore, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights call upon the Yemeni government to end all attacks against human rights defenders who engage with international human rights mechanisms, and to respect their right, granted under international law, to seek the protection and realization of human rights at both the national and international levels.

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