Yemen: Government Should Release Baha’i and Christian Prisoners; Ensure Baha’is are not Deported to Iran

October 16, 2008

Author: Judith Ingram

Source: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is concerned about the status of Baha'i and Christian prisoners in Yemen, who have been imprisoned for months without charge and could face severe punishments. Some of the Baha'i prisoners could be deported to Iran, where the Iranian government has imprisoned and tortured Baha'is in recent years. The Christians, who are converts from Islam, could face the death penalty if charged with apostasy. According to sources familiar with the cases, the Baha'is and Christians were detained for sharing their faith.

"It is very troubling that conditions for religious minorities in Yemen appear to have recently deteriorated," noted Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer. "If the recent raids of Baha'i residences and the arrests of both Christians and Baha'is were carried out because of the religious identity of the targeted individuals, that constitutes a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Yemen is a party."

In June, six Yemeni Baha'is were arrested in the capital city of Sana'a after raids by security officials on several private homes. Two Baha'is, who are Yemeni nationals, have since been released. Of the four individuals remaining in prison, three are Iranian nationals and one is of Iraqi origin. Three of the four in prison have lived in Yemen for at least 25 years. Yemen is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture, which in Article 3 bans the deportation of a person to a country where he or she is likely to be tortured. However, there still exists the serious concern that the three Iranian Baha'is face imminent deportation to Iran, a country where Baha'is have been executed and today face severe repression.