Can the death penalty reduce rape

Yemen: Juvenile offenders face execution

(Sanaa) - The Yemeni government should stop applying and using the death penalty for juvenile offenders, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi should immediately overturn execution orders against three suspected juvenile offenders who are awaiting execution, who are no longer available for appeal and who can be executed at any time.

The 30-page report “Look at Us with a Merciful Eye: Juvenile Offenders Awaiting Execution on Yemen's Death Row” documents that at least 22 people have been sentenced to death despite evidence that they were younger than at the time of the alleged crime 18 years were. At least 15 young men and women have been executed in Yemen over the past five years who testified that they were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. On December 3, 2012, Hind al-Barti was executed by firing squad in Sanaa. The young woman had been convicted of murder. According to her birth certificate, she was 15 years old at the time of the alleged crime.

"President Hadi is expected to break with Yemen's past of arbitrary justice and state-sanctioned violence and overturn the execution orders against the three young men," said Priyanka Motaparthy, child rights expert at Human Rights Watch. "If Yemen ends the execution of juvenile offenders, it will be a clear signal that the government is upholding its human rights obligations."

Hadi should have all death sentences reviewed if it is doubtful whether the convict was at least 18 years old at the time of the crime. All penalties should be commuted if the evidence about the age of an offender is unclear or inconclusive. Yemen's penal code and international law prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders.

Human Rights Watch spoke to five young men and one young woman awaiting execution in Sanaa Central Prison. In addition, the cases of 19 other juvenile offenders were reviewed. Among those interviewed was al-Barti, who told Human Rights Watch in March 2012 that she had been forced to make a false confession after being beaten by police officers and threatened with rape. The authorities informed her parents just hours before the executions.

“There is clear evidence that Hind al-Barti was a girl when she was accused of murder. But she was convicted and eventually executed, ”said Motaparthy. "The Yemeni government should have reduced the sentence if there is even the slightest reason to believe that she was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime."

Like al-Barti, several juvenile offenders reported that they had been threatened, ill-treated and tortured while in police custody, which led to them making false confessions.

“They hit me with their hands. Sometimes they shocked me with electric batons until I fell, ”said Ibrahim al-Omaisy, one of the people Human Rights Watch spoke to. "If they had asked me at this point, 'Did you kill 1000', I would have said 'Yes' out of fear."

The three alleged juvenile offenders who have exhausted the appeal path are

Mohammed Taher Sumoom, Walid Hussein Haikal and Mohammad al-Tawil. Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih signed her execution warrants before resigning in February 2012. The president's signature is the final step before the execution.

Haikal told Human Rights Watch that he was charged with murdering a neighborhood man in 2000 when he was in seventh grade. After he was arrested, he was detained in the Ministry of Interior's Understanding Department for two months and beaten and tortured by police officers, leading to a false confession.

The death penalty for juvenile offenders has been abolished in the Yemeni Penal Code since 1994. A ten-year prison sentence was set as the maximum sentence for offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. However, juvenile offenders face major obstacles when trying to prove their age in court. In some cases, the defendants simply did not have the appropriate documentation to prove that they were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Yemen is one of the countries with the lowest registration rate of births in the world: with a population of more than 24 million people, only 22 percent of births are registered and only 5 percent of the births of children who are born in poor circumstances or in rural areas, so UNICEF.

The Yemeni government is also expected to set up an independent review commission, which is independent from the prosecution, to develop clear procedures and guidelines on how to determine the ages of defendants. The commission is to review both past and future cases. In addition, all juveniles accused of murder and other crimes should have access to age assessment that follows an independent process that includes medical records, neutral records and interviews.

However, even if defendants could prove that they were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, this was simply ignored by the judges. Bashir Muhammad al-Dihar was sentenced to death by a court in Sana'a. He told Human Rights Watch that while the verdict was being delivered, the judge said that even if he were ten years old, murder would be punishable by execution. In February 2013, al-Dihar was informed that an appeals court had reduced his sentence to seven years in prison because of his age. He told Human Rights Watch that he feared Yemen's Supreme Court could uphold the death penalty in his case.

Yemen has ratified both the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which expressly prohibit the death penalty for offenders who are under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

If the court cannot establish with certainty that a defendant was 18 years of age or older at the time of the crime, international law stipulates that the court cannot impose the death penalty. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which interprets the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has made it clear that if there is no evidence of age, the child is entitled to a reliable examination that can determine his or her age. If no clear result is possible, a decision should be made in favor of the child.

Yemen is one of only four countries that has executed people for crimes committed as children in the past five years. The other countries are Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Human Rights Watch categorically rejects the death penalty as an irreversible and inhumane form of punishment.

"The government can now really show that it takes the protection of children - the most vulnerable members of society - seriously by lifting the execution orders in the pending cases of juvenile offenders and respecting the self-imposed ban on the execution of juvenile offenders," said Motaparthy. "Putting juvenile offenders before firing squads is hardly the right way to show that Yemen respects human rights."