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UN, US and Britain condemn public executions by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis

Rebels killed nine individuals on Saturday for their alleged involvement in death of leader Saleh al-Sammad in 2018

A Yemeni soldier takes a selfie as others surround body bags containing the corpses of newly executed men, convicted of involvement in the assassination of Houthi political leader Saleh al-Sammad three years ago, at a public square in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on September 18, 2021. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
A Yemeni soldier takes a selfie as others surround body bags containing the corpses of newly executed men, convicted of involvement in the assassination of Houthi political leader Saleh al-Sammad three years ago, at a public square in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on September 18, 2021. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

The United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom have condemned the executions of nine Yemenis by the country’s Houthi rebels over allegations that they were involved in the killing of a senior Houthi official in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition more than three years ago.

The Iranian-backed Houthis on Saturday publicity executed the nine by firing squad. Hundreds of people, mostly Houthis and their supporters, attended the execution in Tahrir Square in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa.

The Houthis are battling the Yemeni government for control of the impoverished country.

The rebels said that they executed the nine for their involvement in the killing of Saleh al-Sammad, who was head of the Houthis’ supreme political council, in a 2018 airstrike claimed by Saudi Arabia.

They were among 16 people convicted by a Houthi court.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “deeply regrets” the executions, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement, adding that one of the people was reportedly a minor at the time of detention.

Guterres “strongly condemns these actions which are a result of judicial proceedings that do not appear to have fulfilled the requirements of fair trial and due process under international law,” the statement added.

A member of the Yemeni security forces executes one of nine men convicted of involvement in the assassination of Houthi political leader Saleh al-Sammad three years ago, at a public square in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on September 18, 2021. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

Dujarric said that Guterres was also concerned about a reported coalition airstrike this week in the southern province of Shabwa “that allegedly killed at least six civilians from the same family.”

A local pro-government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP that at least five civilians, including three women, were “accidentally” killed in an airstrike on Saturday while they were traveling in their car.

The Saudi-led military coalition could not be immediately reached for comment.

The US’s top diplomat in Yemen, Cathy Westley, called the trial of the nine a “sham” after “years of torture and abuse” of the executed people.

“This outrageous action is another example of the Houthi indifference to basic human rights… This barbarism must end,” Westley said in a message posted on the embassy’s Twitter account.

The British Embassy in Yemen also condemned “the brutal Houthi execution,” which showed “blatant disregard” for a fair trial and due process.

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year.

A member of the Yemeni security forces executes one of nine men, convicted of involvement in the assassination of Houthi political leader Saleh al-Sammad three years ago, at a public square in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on September 18, 2021. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

Since then, tens of thousands have been killed and millions pushed to the brink of famine in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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