Capital punishment in Yemen

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Capital punishment in Yemen is commonly applied for a wide variety of criminal transgressions. This includes violent acts like murder, rape, or terrorism, but it can also be used in cases of Islamic or "Hudud" offences under Sharia law such as adultery, sexual misconduct, prostitution, and apostasy.[1] Kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking, homosexuality,[2] and treason carry a possible death sentence as well.[1]

Yemen has one of the highest execution rates in the world.[3][4] Capital punishment is typically carried out by shooting, although stoning remains a legally viable option for charges of adultery; however, there have been no documented cases of its application for centuries.[1] The southern Arabian republic is also one of a select few countries that continues to perform public executions. In addition to being the only individual in the country with the authority to grant clemency, the President of Yemen must ratify all executions passed down by any court before they are carried out.[5]

Legal procedure[edit]

Like most countries, the Yemeni legal system exists within the framework of a three-tier structure.[6] At the lowest level of jurisprudence are the courts of first instance, established to preside over all different varieties of cases. These range from criminal, civil, commercial, personal status, court-martial, and other miscellaneous offences classified as "special cases" under the penal code (e.g., kidnappings, grand larceny).[6] After trials are held at the lower levels of the Yemeni justice system, there is the option for both the defendant and the relatives of the victim to submit an appeal to an intermediate-level appellate court, which has broad powers to elevate or commute sentences at its discretion.[7] Finally, if legal disputes still remain, then the issue is brought to the Supreme Court of Yemen as a last resort.[6] There are no jury trials in the country, and cases are only adjudicated by individual judges.[6]

Although the Yemeni constitution arranges for the separation of powers between different branches of government,[8] the judiciary is subordinate to the executive branch in practice. The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is a small committee established by the federal government to oversee matters pertaining to the Yemeni legal system.[6] The SJC, which is accountable only to the President of Yemen,[9] can directly appoint or dismiss judges without any judicial oversight.[6] In addition, the President must ratify all death sentences before they are carried out, and is the only person in the country with the authority to enact a stay of execution.[5]

Yemen applies Sharia law, which serves as the basis for all legislation in the country.[8] Many nonviolent capital offences, such as homosexuality or blasphemy, are at least partially derived from a strict interpretation of select Quranic verses.[10][11][12] Another facet of Islamic jurisprudence recognized in Yemeni courts is Qisas. As a means of legal retribution, the relatives of a murder victim have the option to either demand the death penalty for the accused party, or to pardon them for their crimes. However, the extent to which this is actually enforced remains a subject for dispute, as the Yemeni justice system has allegedly performed executions despite objections from the families of murder victims.[13] Conversely, death sentences have been reapplied after an initial pardon issued by the President as a result of pressure from relatives.[14]


Shooting is the only form of execution currently known to be used in Yemen. Stoning, hanging, and beheading are also permitted within the Yemeni penal code;[15] however, stoning is not known to have been carried out for centuries.[1]

In Yemen, the standard procedure for execution is to lie the defendant face-down on the ground and cover them with a blanket. Afterwards, a small group of security guards armed with automatic rifles carry out the sentence by firing multiple rounds into the condemned person's heart, which is pinpointed directly beforehand by a doctor.[16][17] In some cases where the defendant is found guilty of an additional Hudud offense, they may also be sentenced to flogging prior to their death.[18] Both private and public executions are permitted in Yemen,[17][19] with large crowds gathering in the event of the latter.[19]


Execution of juvenile offenders[edit]

The last official execution of a minor in Yemen occurred on 21 July 1993, when 13-year-old Naseer Munir Nasser al-Kirbi and three other men were hanged in the capital Sana'a on charges of murder and highway robbery.[20][21] Following this, the Yemeni House of Representatives amended its penal code the following year by prohibiting death sentences for persons under the age of 18 at the time of their offense.[22] However, the majority of Yemenis are not issued birth certificates (with a civil birth registration rate of 22.6% in 2006, according to the World Health Organization),[23] and the Yemeni legal system is severely limited in its ability to adequately ascertain the age of defendants at the time of their offense.[1] There are several reports that juvenile offenders continue to be executed in Yemen.[5][24][25][26]

One particularly notable case is that of Ibb native Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum, who was charged with a murder committed in June 1999 and subsequently sentenced to death in September 2001.[27] His sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Judicial Council and ratified by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.[28] Samoum is alleged to have been 13 at the time of the offense,[25] and the case of his imminent execution was given particular emphasis in a February 2011 European Parliament resolution regarding the human rights situation in Yemen.[25]

Allegations of unfair trials[edit]

In addition to the execution of juvenile offenders, human rights organizations have expressed concern that death sentences are passed after unfair trials.[29] Authorities have at times allegedly extracted confessions through duress,[29][30][31] using methods such as severe beatings, prolonged suspension, threats of rape, incommunicado detention and inadequate access to food and water.[32]

Number of executions per year[edit]

Year Number of executions
2013 13+[33]
2012 28+[34]
2011 41+[35]
2010 53+[36]
2009 30+[37]
2008 13+[29]
2007 15+[38]
2006 30+[39]
2005 24+[40]
2004 6+[41]
2003 30+[42]
2002 10+[43]
2001 56+[44]
2000 13+[45]
1999 35[46]
1998 17+[47]
1997 5+[48]
1996 1+[49]
1995 41+[50]
1994 25+[51]
1993 30+[52]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Report on Human Rights in Yemen" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 1 February 2012. p. 5. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Yemen: Situation for homosexuals in Yemen, including societal attitudes". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 16 July 2004. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Richard (2012). "The Death Penalty" (PDF). National Post. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Death sentences and executions in 2010" (PDF). Amnesty International. 28 March 2011. pp. 26–27. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Inhuman sentencing of child offenders in Yemen" (PDF). Child Rights International Network. March 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Country Profile – Yemen" (PDF). United States Library of Congress. August 2008. p. 19. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Ajbaili, Mustapha (19 October 2012). "Yemeni woman sentenced to death for killing male relative who tried to rape her". Al Arabiya. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Constitution of the Republic of Yemen, 1990". Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Hadi fires Chairman of Supreme Judicial Council". Yemen Post. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  10. ^ Wafer, Jim (1997). "Muhammad and Male Homosexuality". In Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe. Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History and Literature. New York University Press. p. 88. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  11. ^ Quran 5:33–34
  12. ^ Quran 4:15–16
  13. ^ "Yemeni authorities 'ignored pleas' to save prisoner from execution". Amnesty International. 13 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  14. ^ "Execution of Yemeni Man Feared Imminent" (PDF). Amnesty International. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  15. ^ "Execution of Yemeni child killer captured on camera". The Telegraph. 7 July 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  16. ^ Root, Tik (12 March 2013). "Yemen Still Sentences Children to Death by Firing Squad". The Atlantic. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "'I owe my life to Amnesty International'". Amnesty International. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Yemen 'ripper' executed". BBC News. 20 June 2001. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Cohen, Tamara (7 July 2009). "Justice Yemen-style: Paedophile who raped boy, 11, shot in the head in front of hundreds of spectators". Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Executions of juveniles since 1990". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  21. ^ "Juveniles and the Death Penalty: Executions Worldwide since 1990" (PDF). Amnesty International. November 1998. p. 8. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  22. ^ "Republican Decree, By Law No. 12 for 1994, Concerning Crimes and Penalties". 1994. p. Article 31. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  23. ^ "Health information systems and data availability: Census and civil registration coverage by country". World Health Organization. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  24. ^ Al-Wesabi, Sadeq (31 December 2012). "Hundreds of Yemeni Children 'Teeter on the Edge of Execution'". Yemen Times. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  25. ^ a b c "UN child rights official expresses dismay over Yemen juvenile offender execution". UN News Centre. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  26. ^ "Yemen: Teenager faces execution on Saturday". Amnesty International UK. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  27. ^ "Clemency urged for man facing imminent execution in Yemen". Amnesty International. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  28. ^ "Yemen: death penalty against juvenile offenders, notably the case of Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum" (PDF). European Parliament. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c "Amnesty International Annual Report 2009 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 28 May 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  30. ^ "Yemen: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee: 104th Session of the Human Rights Committee, 12–30 March, 2012" (PDF). Amnesty International. 23 February 2012. pp. 7, 12, 15, 16. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  31. ^ "Yemen: Amnesty International deplores execution after unfair trial". Amnesty International. 29 November 2005. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  32. ^ ""Look at Us with a Merciful Eye" - Juvenile Offenders Awaiting Execution in Yemen" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 4 March 2013. p. 6. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  33. ^ "Death sentences and executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014". Amnesty International. 27 March 2014. p. 40. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  34. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2013 - Yemen". Amnesty International. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  36. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 13 May 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  37. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2010 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  38. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2008 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  39. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2007 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 23 May 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  40. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2006 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  41. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2005 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 25 May 2005. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  42. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2004 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 26 May 2004. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  43. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2003 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 28 May 2003. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  44. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2002 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 28 May 2002. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  45. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2001 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 June 2001. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  46. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 2000 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 June 2000. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  47. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 1999 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 January 1999. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  48. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 1998 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 January 1998. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  49. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 1997 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 January 1997. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  50. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 1996 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 January 1996. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  51. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 1995 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 January 1995. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  52. ^ "Amnesty International Annual Report 1994 – Yemen". Amnesty International. 1 January 1994. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 

See also[edit]