CAIRO — A group of U.N. human rights experts urged Yemen’s Shiite rebels on Thursday to free all prisoners from the Baha’i religious minority, following an earlier decision by the rebels to pardon their jailed leader and drop all charges against other detainees.
There have long been concerns about the treatment of the members of the Baha’i minority at the hands of the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, who have ruled much of the impoverished Arab country’s north and the capital, Sanaa, since the civil war started in 2014.
Late last month, senior rebel official Mehdi al-Mashat announced in a televised speech that he had ordered the release of Baha’i leader Hamed bin Haydara, and another five Baha’i detainees. However, the decision has since not been implemented.
“We strongly recommend against any rollback of the official decision to pardon and release which was communicated unequivocally,” said the independent experts from the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
A rollback, the statement added, “would violate the fundamental rights of those affected.”
Bin Haydara, the Baha’i leader, was arrested in 2013 by the government of President Mansour Abed Rabbo Hadi. After the Iran-backed Houthis overran most of the north and Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee, bin Haydara remained behind bars.
Since 2015, the Houthis have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi’s internationally recognized government. A Houthi court sentenced bin Haydara to death in 2018. The decision to pardon him was announced on March 25.
For years, human rights advocates have decried what they say is unlawful incarceration of the Baha’is and have demanded the minority be granted the right to practice its faith freely. The monotheistic Baha’i religion was founded in 1844 by a Persian nobleman, considered a prophet by followers.