SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Almost all executions in Yemen are for murder and are carried out in public, normally attended by relatives of the victim. The victim’s family can, at the very last moment, forgive the guilty individual (sparing death), but this is very rare. Usually everyone is blood thirsty, fitting for the occasion.
One of the most notable recent executions was carried out on the 20th of June 2001 when Sudanese mortuary assistant, Mohammad Adam Omar, nicknamed “the Sana’a Ripper,” was shot in front of a crowd of 50,000 for the rape and murder of two university students.
He was brought into the execution ground (a sports stadium) with his hands cuffed behind his back. According to Yemenis who witnessed the execution, Omar was forced to kneel, then pushed face down onto the bare ground. He was lashed 80 times across his back with a whip of knotted leather. The additional punishment was ordered after Omar admitted at his trial to having drunk alcohol, a serious offense under the Islamic legal code enforced in Yemeni courts.
After the lashes, a police officer braced himself with his legs either side of the condemned man, and fired three rounds from a Kalashnikov assault rifle aimed vertically at his upper back. As Omar continued to move, the officer fired at his head. His body was then taken to a secret burial place.
An Executioner is a respected profession in Arab World
In the Arab world, ‘Executioner’
is a particularly respected occupation
, bequeathed from father to son. Representatives of the profession say their goal is to make beheadings as painless as possible for the condemned.
Paedophile who raped boy, 11, shot in the head in front of hundreds of spectators
By Tamara Cohen
07th July 2009
This is criminal justice, Yemen style. A man accused of raping and murdering an 11-year-old boy is paraded through his home town before being shot dead by an executioner.
Hundreds of onlookers lined the streets to watch the gruesome scene, cheering and shouting abuse at Yehya Hussein al-Raghwah.
The boy, Hamdi al-Kabas
, had reportedly come into his shop for a haircut last December during the Muslim festival of Eid. After brutally attacking him, the barber cut his body into pieces and dumped them outside the capital Sana’a.
He was given the death penalty by a Yemeni court a month later after apparently admitting his crime.
First he leaves the city’s central prison, handcuffed and dressed in white robes. Fear etched on his face, he is surrounded by soldiers as he is led towards a ceremonial red carpet.
He is allowed to say a final prayer, his shirt is then ripped open before he is laid face down.
Yahya Hussein al-Raghwah prepares himself before the execution
As a police official reads out his sentence for the last time, a doctor oversees his treatment and crowds – which appear to include children – jeer and punch the air, some filming his final moment on their mobile phones.
Yemeni police officers, accompanied by a doctor, left, place al-Raghwah face down prior to his execution in front of the central prison in San’a
The executioner prepares to shoot al-Raghwah in the back of the head
Within a split second it is all over. (Well, almost!-ed.)
His death brings the number of executions in the country this year to nine. You can see a two-minute video captured by a cell-phone of this event from the crowd at :http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xa56m3_rapist-barber-public-execution-in-y_music
Apparently he was shot three times.
Yemen is one of 59 countries which retains the death penalty, and one of its most prolific users, according to Amnesty International. It is deployed for a variety of violent and non-violent crimes including apostasy and adultery.
Last year Yemen executed 13 people, according to those Amnesty has verified. But as no official figures are released the real toll could be far higher. All of those died by firing squad but in recent years there have been reports of stonings and beheadings.
The deeply religious desert country has a poor human rights record and it is unclear if the barber had a fair trial.
Under sharia law, which applies in Yemen, relatives of the victims of certain categories of murder have the power to pardon the offender in exchange for compensation, grant a pardon freely or request his or her execution.
There is a very interesting VIDEO interview with Talal al-Taib, the executioner in the above article that was done this past January. As this profession is usually passed down father to son, al-Taib is very proud that his father had executed 2879 men and 14 woman during his long and illustrious career. Talal believes that he will be rewarded in the aftermath.
Talal, relaxed for the interview, with a picture of his late father.
The most famous person in Yemen to implement executions against those sentenced for death by Yemeni courts Talal Al-Taib is called the Ashmawi of Yemen. His father, who died towards the end of 2004, was the most famous person in Yemen to implement executions against those sentenced for death by Yemeni courts.Abdul Nasser Al-Mamlouh:
Since when have you been doing this job “implementing execution sentences” or the Ashmawi?
Talal Al-Taib: Since my father’s death (towards the ends of 2004). My father used to do this job and I replaced him now.
AM: And for how long was your father implementing execution sentences?
TT: He started this job as soon as he joined the military; since the early 1970s if I am right.
AM: Were you accompanying him?
TT: Sometimes … I often noticed that my father did not want anyone of my brothers or me to do this job. He was keen about making us complete our education; but it was a quirk of fate that brought me to this job.
AM: Did you graduate from university?
TT: Yes and I graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Sana’a University. I specialized in accounting. I left my specialization following my father’s death and I did this job. I was somewhat interested in it, but my father objected then.
TT: Because he was working in this job at the time, and didn’t want to make one of my brothers or me to take his place while he is still alive. Second, my father wanted us to study and complete our education.
AM: How did you become Ashmawi?
TT: It was a quirk of fate. My father died after he implemented an execution sentence in Ramadan. He implemented the ruling in the morning and died in the afternoon of the same day. He died at about 5 pm. He was afflicted with a heart attack. My father died on Wednesday in September 2004 and he was supposed to implement another execution sentence on Saturday of that week. We were called on Thursday and were told that my father had to execute a convict on Saturday. When informing that Saleh Al-Taib died, they were shocked. This caused uproar.
TT: My father died on Wednesday and we were told that he had to implement an execution sentence on Saturday – meaning there should be an alternative and Thursday and Friday are holidays.
AM: Did they ask you for an alternative?
TT: Some guards in the Central Prison implemented Saturday’s execution sentence and other executions, but they were not successful. Their execution was refused by many people, because their performance was bad?
AM: The matter is no more than implementing the execution with few bullets fired on the convict, so how come that their performance was bad?
TT: There are several factors at the top of which is fear. When somebody is implementing an execution ruling – while he is confused and frightened – this will reflect in his way of implementation. They were not psychologically prepared for such an act. Thus, we were contacted to find if someone from our family is interested to take over his job. After consultations among my family members, I was nominated for this job.
AM: Did the concerned authorities in the Central Prison put some conditions for such a job?
TT: There are some conditions. The Ashmawi must be police affiliate. I was then affiliated with the air forces. When I came to the Central Prison, they were having four execution cases. I did my job perfectly and this led the Prison’s director to say that Saleh Al-Taib is still alive (meaning I did the job in the same way my father had done it). He started the required measures to transfer me from air forces to police.
Am: How many execution rulings have you implemented so far?
TT: I implemented 16 execution sentences while I was still an affiliate of air forces. Since 2004, I have executed 100 men and a woman.
AM: How many people did your father execute?
TT: He executed 2879 men and 14 women.
AM: Have you noticed strange things when implementing executions?
TT: One strange thing was executing a man who I think his heart was in the right side. I or any other Ashmawi must shoot the convict on his heart. I fired on his left side directly to his heart, I found his heart was still throbbing despite the fact that a human being’s heart is so weak and one bullet is enough.
AM: Have you told the prison’s administration and the doctor, and did your father face such cases?
TT: No … but I can assure them after execution that the convict’s heart is not in the left side. My father faced about four cases. I think this has been proved and one person out of 10,000 has his heart in the right side of the chest.
AM: What measures you follow before implementing the execution?
TT: I read the court ruling and other details. I think you have noticed this while I was preparing to execute the child’s rapist last week. I can give details about this person after so many years. I have an archive for everything even signatures and wills.
AM: Can you object implementing an execution and ask another to do the job?
TT: No … things are not as you think them to be. Why should I refuse? I am implementing a ruling endorsed by the prosecution. Even when you do not have time to read the ruling, you will hear it recited in the execution field. I am simply implementing a judicial ruling, so I do not get affected by doubts and suchlike things.
AM: Let’s assume that you have noticed something not realized by the judge e.g. from your conversation with witnesses and the like?
TT: This is possible. This could affect, but, in such a case, I go to the victim’s family and ask them to let off the convict. I did this many times and I am still doing so. However, I do not interfere for any person who does deserve to be executed. Once two people were sentenced to death, and while in the execution field, I interfered and I asked the victim’s family for forgiveness. My efforts were successful as the family let off one of the convicts. This happened in 2005.
AM: After execution, do not you feel some worry or disgust?
TT: Never! I feel as if I perform a religious duty and I expect God’s reward. I do not kill … it is not enough for the person who executes to have a daring heart and to have strong faith. He has to be content that he is applying Sharee’ah for which you expect God’s reward.
AM: You must have a daring heart because you are Ashmawi … but are you hard in your dealings with people outside?
TT: Things are not the way you think e.g. the surgeon does tear the patient’s parts. When doing so, this does not mean that he is merciless or violent. This will not be reflected in his dealings with people. He might have more mercy in his heart than others. I can’t talk about myself, because “the one who praises himself is a liar”.
AM: But people view you as merciless?
TT: I am always kind, but there is a difference between mercy and dignity. I deal with people with a kind heart, with keeping my dignity. When I go outside my zone, I try not to reveal that I am Ashmawi. My job is in the Central Prison and it is not beyond its doors. I am like any other policeman.
YEMEN POST STAFF
World wide, some 55 countries carry out executions. This includes the U.S. (except for 14 states where they are banned). In Russia there is a moratorium on the death penalty, which expires in 2010, but it could be extended. Researchers say that the most common forms of execution – lethal injections, hanging, electrocution, and gas all risk causing unnecessary pain if they are not properly carried out, which not infrequently happens.
____________________________________________________________________________BASIC FACTS ABOUT YEMENHead of state
‘Ali Abdullah Saleh Head of government
Ali Mohammed Megawar Death penalty
23.1 million Life expectancy
61.5 years Under-5 mortality (m/f)
83/72 per 1,000 Adult literacy
54.1 per cent
What does Amnesty International have to say about Yemen?
Dozens of prisoners were sentenced after unfair trials before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). The authorities failed to investigate possible extrajudicial executions and other killings by the security forces. Allegations of police brutality and torture or other ill-treatment were widespread. Sentences of flogging were imposed and carried out. At least 13 people were executed and hundreds of prisoners remained on death row, including minors.
The government proposed negative changes to the Penal Code on corporal punishment, discrimination against women and the criminalization of criticism of religion. The government also proposed a Counter Terrorism Law and a Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Law, both of which define terrorism vaguely, would weaken safeguards for the protection of suspects, and contain no safeguards for the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“Several protesters were deliberately killed or died as a result of excessive use of force by the security forces during peaceful protests.”….
Scores of suspected spies and alleged supporters of Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi or al-Qa’ida were unfairly tried before the SCC, or had their sentences confirmed by the Appeal Specialized Court (ASC). Defence lawyers complained that they were not permitted full access to their clients’ files, and defendants alleged that “confessions” they had made during lengthy pre-trial incommunicado detention had been obtained under torture or other ill-treatment….
CRUEL, INHUMAN AND DEGRADING PUNISHMENTS
Sentences of flogging were frequently carried out after being handed down by the courts for sexual and alcohol offences…
DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice and were inadequately protected against domestic and other violence…
At least 13 people were executed and hundreds of prisoners were on death row. Death row prisoners included individuals suffering from mental or other disabilities, and minors. Defendants with impaired hearing were sentenced after being denied interpretation facilities…
Yemeni Filmmaker Fights for Women’s Rights
An Interview With Khadija Al-Salami
By Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen
Nov 24, 2008
The film’s center is Amina al-Tuhaif, a Yemenite woman who has been incarcerated for the past 10 years, awaiting execution. At age 11, she was united in an arranged marriage to a man many years her senior, and at 14 she was sentenced to death when a court found her guilty of murdering her husband. Amina strongly argued her innocence throughout the process, insisting that her husband had been strangled by a cousin over a land dispute.
A still photo from the film Amina
Amina was scheduled for execution in 2002 when she would have been old enough to be hanged under Yemen’s laws, but by that time, she was pregnant. The prison staff decided to push her execution forward until 2005, when her child would no longer be nursing. The filmmaker, who lives in Paris, spoke by phone with NAM editor Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen about Amina, the challenges of filming a prisoner and the barriers women in Yemen face.
NAM: What made you want to investigate the story of Amina?
Al-Salami: In the newspaper, I just read that this woman killed her husband, and that her lover, helped her, his cousin. I didn’t think she was innocent necessarily at that point, but I wanted to hear her point of view. But when I found out how he was killed, I knew there was no way a woman could do that—he was strangled, and then his body was taken to a cistern and he was [made to look as if he had] drowned. But if she had killed him why would she tell the authorities that it wasn’t a natural death? Because originally, they just thought that he had drowned. So when I heard this story, I thought, we’ve heard from that side, but we haven’t heard from her side.
NAM: Much of the film is spent inside the prison walls. How did you gain access?
The film maker
Al-Salami: When I first told friends in Yemen that I wanted to go meet Amina, they said, ‘Don’t even try.’ One friend, the minister of human rights, told me it would be difficult because the prison is controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. I kept faxing the Ministry of Interior, and every time they said they hadn’t receive anything. So I decided to go to Yemen and give it them directly by hand. Even though Yemen’s general prosecutor (similar to the U.S. attorney general) didn’t want me to do it, I went inside anyways without him knowing. The director of the prison then let me come several days. I was lucky. I think that part of it was that nobody knew what I was doing. If people knew, they wouldn’t have let me continue filming, so I was discreet about it.
NAM: Amina and the other female prisoners in the documentary seem to be very comfortable talking about intimate details of their lives on camera.
Al-Salami: Because I couldn’t bring a crew to the women’s prison, I filmed it myself. And Amina had never seen a camera before in her life, so she would talk to me without paying attention to the camera. I would just talk to her, and I had the camera in my hand, so she was very natural and spontaneous.
NAM: In the film, you mention that Amina did not have proper representation throughout her trial. Is this common in Yemen?
Al-Salami: She was already a criminal in the eyes of the society because they thought she killed her husband. And at the beginning she was held at a prison near her village, so there were no civil laws used over there. It was tribal and Sharia law-based.
Then at one point she ran from prison, so that was a crime. And then she was pregnant, so that was considered another crime.
Later, there was a lawyer who tried to represent her, but the death warrant had already been signed. They said they were going to wait until her son was 2 two years old, but she was still supposed to be executed.
NAM: At the end of the film, we learn that you have been able to free Amina. How did you do this?
Ali Abdullah Saleh
Al-Salami: I met Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President of Yemen, when he came to Paris. I had recently won first prize at the Beirut film festival for another film, about a little girl who refuses to wear the veil and is criticized by everyone around her. To my surprise, his reaction to that film was positive, so I was courageous enough to bring up Amina’s story. At first he was upset. How did I get access to the prison? He was afraid we were showing a bad side of Yemen to the world. But I told him, ‘You always say in your speeches that we need to be open and transparent in order to change for the better.’ So I’m just following what you are saying—I’m trying to make change for the better. I told him that even if she had killed her husband, she had been a minor at the time. The president was surprised. They did a medical exam [to confirm her age] and he agreed to stop the execution but he still said she would spend her life in prison.
Then a French minister of corporation and development went to Yemen for an official visit, and she asked me to join her. I asked her to talk to the President about Amina’s case, and she did. At that point, he told one of his secretaries to have a decree on order to pay the blood money to the family [payment to the victim’s family is considered an acceptable alternative to execution under Sharia and tribal law.]
Al-Salami: Amina is in Yemen, and I’ve been moving her from one house to another. She’s been out almost a year, but since then I’ve moved her to seven houses. I’m trying to get her out of the country. After Amina was released, the man who killed her husband was executed. The family is now looking for Amina to take revenge.
NAM: How many women are imprisoned in Yemen?
Al-Salami: There are not more than 70 women in the biggest prison in Yemen, where Amina was held. In other smaller prisons, there are 10 or 20 women. The women that we saw incarcerated are mostly poor women. Some are criminals who stole. One lady stole her friend’s jewelry, and some said they killed their husbands, but some were innocent. Some were found in the presence of a male that is not from her family. She doesn’t know her rights so she cannot defend them and policeman take advantage of these people. Sometimes they ask them for money and let them go, but if they don’t have money, they send them to prison.
NAM: You were in an arranged marriage, at age 11. How did that affect your life?
Al-Salami: I was luckier than Amina, because I grew up in the city, and I had already started school before my family forced me to get married. I knew that education was a chance to escape all these traditional customs. But unfortunately Amina was in a rural area, where there was no school.
My father was a doctor, but then he became mentally ill because of the war and became violent towards my mother. It was a very difficult childhood—I knew I didn’t want to live like my mother so I worked hard to get out of the life she had.
Education helped me to deal with my problems—early marriage, family problems and abuses. And it helped me have my own life in my hands. I came from a modest family, very traditional and conservative, but in order for me to get out of that situation, I used education. You have to be brave and courageous, because it’s not easy at the beginning, but after you do it, people admire you and respect you.
NAM: Have Yemini people been able to see the film? And if so, what was their reaction?
Al-Salami: I originally made the film in Arabic because my goal was to show it in Yemen so we could [use it as a tool to] discuss our problems. Then the Ministry of Culture’s censorship committee banned the film, but I didn’t listen to them. I left Sanna, the capital, and I went to other cities and villages in Yemen where I showed the film to men and women. Afterwards, we would have [discussions.] Most of the people talked about their problems so openly, I was shocked, but I was so happy.
Girls said, “How do we tell our fathers that we don’t want to get married at an early age? What are our rights?” Men would also say, “Early marriage is not a good thing.” I thought a lot of people who be against me, but the majority were positive. The authorities found out later, but it was too late.
The film was then showed on Al Arabiya, a news station based in Dubai whose main competitor is AlJezeera. Through satellite TV, many Yemeni people watched the film and talked about Amina. Now Yemini TV wants to show it, too.
A film critique can be found here:
And excerpts from Amina can be found here:
Khadija Al-Salami is Yemen’s first woman film-maker, and has made some 20 documentaries for various TV stations in France and Yemen. Many of her films focus on women. This is a reflection of her life experience. At age eleven her family forced her into an early, unhappy marriage.
After her divorce she remained independent of family pressure and local tradition by finding employment at the local television station. There she worked afternoons while attending school in the mornings. At the age sixteen she earned a scholarship to the United States where she studied film-making. Her first film, for her thesis, was about Yemeni women.
In addition to film-making, with her husband, Khadija has written an autobiography, “The Tears of Sheba”. Currently, she is the Press Counselor and Director of the Communication Center at the Embassy of Yemen in Paris.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS