301 Children Are Waiting For the Death Penalty

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

The Yemeni justice system is described as failing to provide a fair trial in many cases where defendants may be sentenced to death after confessions under coercion or based on testimonies they gave without legal advice. Delinquent children are exposed to the most serious human rights violations, such as sentences implemented in unsafe places and environments.

On Wednesday October 29th, an NGOs coalition for children’s rights organized the first National Conference Against the Death Penalty for Children under the slogan “Yes to reduce the phenomenon of the death penalty for children” with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union (EU).

Salah Al-Harazi, the General Coordinator for the Yemeni Coalition for the Rights of the Child, said that there is a lack of community awareness and a lack of supporting documents for children.

“There must be legitimate specialists and doctors to examine and determine the age of the children and provide the court with accurate reports to avoid falling into the medical irregularities leading to their execution,” Al-Harazi added.

Statistics show that Yemen has one of the lowest birth registration rates in the world. In the period from 2000 to 2010, only 22% of births were registered. There are 655 children, male and female, in the prison and 301 of them are sentenced to death.

Al-Harazi added that 24 children had completed their sentences but were still in prison until they pay money, which totals 140 million.

Arbena Kuriu, Human Rights Officer, Deputy Head of Office OIC, said that the prohibition of the executions for crimes committed by persons under the age of 18 is provided in several international and regional human rights treaties, in particular in Article 6 of the ICCPR and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Kuriu added that despite global progress, the legislations of 14 states allow the application of the death penalty to children. At least 4 of the 14 states continue to execute children under 18 at the time of the crime. “Unfortunately, Yemen is in the list of those remaining countries.”

Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood Lamia al-Iryani pointed to the importance of the existence of legislation and laws regarding child protection, as well as a review of special Yemeni legislation.