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Juveniles executed in Yemen though law forbids it

By Ken Hanly     Mar 5, 2013 in Crime
Sanaa - Yemen is accused of jailing and executing people who were still children when they committed their crimes. Some of the executions are due to lack of birth certificates but others are due to failures in the justice system.
A sample case is described in an Al Jazeera report. Mariam al-Batah is one of 22 known death row juveniles in Yemen. She was sentenced to death for murder at 15. She comes from a rural illiterate background and her parents failed to register her birth. She is now 19 and has spent the years since her sentence in squalid conditions at Hodeida Central Prison.
Al-Batah's father married her off as a second wife to an older man when she was only 12 years old. Al-Batah claims that her husband beat her, starved her, and locked her in a room for weeks at a time. One day when the child of her husband's first wife unlocked the door where she was locked in, she recalls rushing out in a disoriented state and she violently hurled the child to the ground, killing it on the spot.
Since she had no birth certificate to prove she was under 18 she was tried for murder as an adult. Under Yemen law, children who are 15 years or older can be tried as adults but the maximum sentence if convicted of murder can not be more than ten years.. Al-Batah bore a stillborn child in prison. Her husband's first wife forgave her but her own family has disowned her.
Priyanka Motaparthy, a Human Rights Watch( HRW) researcher said that proving age was a huge issue in these cases. However, Motaparthy points to another problem:"But there is a second issue: even in cases when juvenile offenders and lawyers were able to produce strong evidence suggesting they were under 18 for their alleged crime, judges and prosecutors have disregarded Yemeni law and called for death sentences."
Yemen banned juvenile execution as of 1994 but a total of 186 are being tried for murder and could receive the death penalty. In spite of the law Yemen's presidents have signed orders to execute 15 juveniles over the past five years. On December 3, 2012 a government firing squad in Sanaa executed Hind al-Barti who was convicted of murder even though her birth certficate indicates she was just 15 at the time of her alleged crime. In March 2012, Barti told HRW that she had made a false confession after police officers beat her and threatened her with rape. Government authorities only gave her family a few hours' notice before her execution.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on president Mansour Hadi to halt all executions of juveniles. The group also asked the president to review execution orders for three juveniles on death row whose appeals have run out.
More about Yemen, Death penalty, juvenile executions
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