The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
April 23, 2021
Dear President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.,
We, the Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights, a student practice organization dedicated to human rights advocacy at Harvard Law School, and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), a regional NGO based in the Middle East, urge you to call for the immediate release of Abdul Khaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Humaid, and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, four journalists who currently are imprisoned by the Houthi armed group in Yemen. We are deeply concerned that these journalists were sentenced to death following unfair trials and that while they no longer face imminent threat of execution, they remain at risk. We urge you to utilize your diplomatic powers to publicly and privately encourage their immediate release.
These four journalists have been imprisoned since June 2015, when the Houthi de facto authorities in Sanaa accused them of treason and conspiring with the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi group. In reality, they were simply doing their jobs of documenting information and reporting news. The Houthi group kidnapped and arbitrarily detained these journalists after they had reported on Houthi-perpetrated abuses in Yemen. They were tried in the Houthi-run Specialized Criminal Court during an unfair trial and sentenced to death for exercising their roles as journalists. By the end of 2020, the four journalists were moved to a Central Security Base Prison and were deprived of their basic rights, including visits.
In February 2021, a court hearing was scheduled at the Houthi-controlled Specialized Criminal Appeals Court in Sanaa to review the case of these four journalists. The journalists were not brought to the hearing. An official representing the Houthi Secret Services informed the court that they were moved to a different prison pending a prisoner exchange deal.
In March 2021, the same court scheduled another session to review the appeal of the four journalists, yet the journalists were not permitted to attend their hearing and continued to be detained. The Houthi Security and Intelligence Services claimed that the journalists were released, but they reportedly remain in a prisoners exchange house under threat of execution, and their families have not been able to visit them since October 2020. The court adjourned the hearing until May 23, 2021.
Houthi prisons lack adequate medical care and are poorly managed. Other journalists who were held in similar prisons reported that they were repeatedly tortured and deprived of food and water. In addition, the four journalists risk exposure to COVID-19. As of today, the four journalists have spent 70 months in Houthi prisons.
No human being should be deprived of their right to free speech. You have personally emphasized the critical role that journalists play in upholding democracy around the world. In these four journalists’ cases, there is no justifiable compelling interest for the authorities to infringe on freedom of speech and restrict the exercise of journalism. The Houthi de facto authorities should immediately free the four imprisoned journalists and allow them to freely carry out their jobs.
This week marks your 100th day in office. During that time, you and your administration have taken the important step of removing US support for the Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen. We encourage you to build on this progress by taking action to promote respect for freedom of speech, uphold human rights, and contribute to the restoration of peace in Yemen. We believe that your administration is well-placed to make a positive, lasting impact in restoring peace in Yemen and ending this oppressive pattern of speech suppression.
Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights urge you to call for the immediate release of the four journalists: Abdul Khaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Humaid, and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri. We are calling on your administration to communicate with the Houthi de facto authorities to drop any charges against these four journalists and to release them immediately. We are further calling on your Administration to call upon the authorities on all sides of the conflict in Yemen to fully adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law and values, and respect freedom of speech. All Yemenis deserve to live in peace and harmony, without reprisals for simply expressing their opinions or reporting news.
Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
 Nima Elbagir, Just Let Journalists do our Jobs, CNN (Dec. 21, 2020). https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/21/opinions/press-freedom-world-us-journalists-elbagir/index.html
 Afrah Nasser, In Yemen, Journalism can be a Capital Offence, Human Rights Watch (Dec. 10, 2020). https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/12/10/yemen-journalism-can-be-capital-offense#
 Amnesty International, Yemen: Global Solidarity with Four Journalists (July 10, 2020). https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/yemen-global-solidarity-with-four-journalists-sentenced-to-death/
 Rishika Dugyala, Contrasting Messages from Biden and Trump on Word Press Freedom Day, Politico (May 3, 2020). https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/03/biden-trump-world-press-freedom-day-232808