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Houthi court sentences 13 men to public execution for gay sex

Yemen Crowded Street Arab Spring

Activists say the rebel group is escalating its human rights abuses at home as it attacks international shipping.

A Houthi-controlled provincial court in Yemen handed down death sentences to 13 men found guilty of engaging in same-sex sexual relations, according to the Agence France-Presse. Three other men remain in jail and another 35 individuals have been arrested on similar charges in the province of Ibb.

Yemen is located at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The Iranian proxy rebel group Houthis controls large portions of the country in its fight against the government backed by a Saudi-led coalition of neighboring countries. In recent months, the Houthis have attacked commercial shipping transiting the Red Sea, leading to air strikes on Houthi strongholds by the U.S. and U.K.

Human rights groups decried the trials and sentences, saying acts of abuse have increased with the recent attacks on international shipping. Critics expressed skepticism about the group’s stated goal of striking a blow against Israel and its dependences on trade transiting the region.

“The Huthis are ramping up their abuses at home while the world is busy watching their attacks in the Red Sea," Niku Jafarnia, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the AFP. “If they really cared about the human rights they purport to be standing up for in Palestine, they wouldn't be flogging and stoning Yemenis to death.”

A U.N. panel examining the situation in Yemen in 2022 and 2023 heavily criticized the Houthis for their systematic human rights abuses. The report noted an increase in sexual and gender-based violence against the LGBTQ+ community, “including cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence against men, women and children.”

The panel also reported “arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, torture and other forms of ill-treatment or punishment” against targeted groups including migrants, displaced persons, and the LGBTQ+ community.

The Houthis have also been criticized for “the indiscriminate use of landmines and improvised explosive devices” which has been part of an “endemic and systematic” policy. The panel also presented evidence that 1,964 children recruited by the Houthis died on the battlefield in 2020 and the first five months of 2021.

It is unclear if or when the executions will take place. Shooting, stoning, hanging, and beheading are all forms of extra-judicial execution employed in Yemen.

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