Yemen: An independent, impartial and thorough investigation must be opened into the death of journalist Mohammed Al-Abbsi after results of an autopsy suggest he was poisoned. He was an active and prominent journalist who had published numerous news stories and articles about corruption in Yemen.
On 20 December 2016 Mohammed Al-Abbsi died in hospital reportedly to a heart attack. (See GCHR news). An autopsy was performed at the direction of his family, and the results, which were released on 5 February 2017, confirmed that he was killed by exposure to a toxic gas.
Mohammed Al-Abbsi had been targeted in the past as a result of his reporting. In the months prior to his death he had been investigating a story linked to oil companies owned by Houthi leaders in Yemen. He had worked for the pro-government newspaper Al-Thawra until it was shut down in September 2014 by Houthi forces. His reporting covered topics including corruption, the black market and war economy in the country.
The suspicious death of Mohammed Al-Abbsi comes in the context of on-going persecution of journalists, media workers and human rights defenders in Yemen by all parties to the conflict. Many journalists and online activists are currently detained by Houthi forces, and Al-Qaeda rebels. In addition to that, they are threatened, similar to other citizens, by the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. The World Press Freedom Index ranks Yemen at 170th place out of 180 countries as freedom of expression is brutally suppressed.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses deep concern at the death of Mohammed Al-Abbsi and extends its sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues. It expresses further concern at the on-going targeting of journalists in Yemen and the price they pay for doing their work and peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Yemen to:
Immediately and unconditionally establish an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the death of Mohammed Al-Abbsi with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in line with international standards;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all journalists, media workers, online activists and human rights defenders in Yemen are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”