Houthi coupists have no right to prosecute MPs: minister

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


The Houthis have shuttered commercial shops in Sanaa whose owners have not paid taxes to the militia. In mid-September, the Houthi militia seized the property of 35 Yemeni MPs it has accused of committing 'treason' in a move that has drawn widespread condemnation. [Haitham Mohammed/Al-Mashareq]

In a continuing attempt to suppress dissent in areas of Yemen under their control and firmly entrench their position in government, the Houthis (Ansarallah) have been targeting legitimately elected members of parliament.

Last month, the Iran-backed militia announced it was putting the speaker of parliament and 34 Yemeni MPs who oppose it on trial for "treason".

It accused them of "undermining the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Yemen, and communicating with foreign countries".

It also accused the lawmakers of convening a session of parliament in the Hadramaut province city of Seiyun, which is under the control of the country's legitimate government.

Yemen's parliament reconvened in Seiyun on April 13th after a four-year hiatus for an extraordinary session, with President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and around 140 Yemeni MPs in attendance.

At the time, some lawmakers said they had received threats from the Houthis, who sought to keep them from attending.

The Houthis' latest move -- which has no legal force as the militia seized control of state institutions from the legitimate government via a coup in September 2014 -- has drawn widespread national and international condemnation.

Regardless, the Houthis began their trial on September 12th, and on September 14th, a Houthi-controlled court in Sanaa issued a decision ordering the provisional seizure of the assets and property of the 35 MPs.

Widespread condemnation

The Arab League's legislative body, the Arab Parliament, condemned the Houthis' actions in a September 16th statement.

The militia's actions "are in flagrant violation of international laws, charters and norms, UN resolutions and international treaties and a clear violation of Inter-Parliamentary Union rules", it said.

UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths also condemned the move.

"I regret the provisional confiscation of assets and property of 35 Yemeni MPs in Sanaa, which sends a negative message to the independent functioning of state institutions," he said in a September 24th post on his official Twitter account.

"The Houthi militias' courts do not have any legal capacity," Yemen's Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

"As such, any decision issued by them is null and void, owing to the fact that the Houthis seized control of state institutions by force," he said.

He described the trial and seizure of the lawmakers' property as "an extension of the Houthis' abuses against MPs since their takeover of Sanaa in 2014".

Even before this, he noted, the Houthis have destroyed the property of 41 MPs, confiscated the property of 27, seized the property of 17, frozen the bank accounts of 25, and transformed the seized and confiscated homes into military headquarters and barracks.

Houthis' trial is illegal

Abdul Hafeez also noted other violations the Houthis have committed against lawmakers, including the issuance of a death sentence against two MPs and the forcible displacement of 105 others.

"The reason the 35 MPs are being tried is their declared opposition to the Houthis," he said.

With this measure, the Houthis seek "to exert psychological pressure on and terrorise the rest of the MPs, both those under their authority and those under the auspices of the legitimate government’s parliament", he said.

The Houthis' trial of the lawmakers and seizure of their property is illegal, lawyer and human rights activist Abdul Rahman Barman told Al-Mashareq.

This was "carried out by force of arms in order to terrorise the rest of the MPs and dissuade them from taking public positions against them", he said.

The most difficult aspect of this situation is the Houthis’ mistreatment of the lawmakers' families, "who are harassed, subjected to threats and [fear] being persecuted or expelled from their homes by the Houthis", he said.

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