The UN expert on freedom of religion or belief Tuesday condemned [press release] Yemen for the nation’s arbitrary arrest and detention of people belonging to the Bahá’í religious community. The expert, Heiner Bielefeldt [official profile], explained that “[a]ny arrest or detention based on the exercise of the freedom of religion is arbitrary.” Bielefeldt called on Yemen to release all those detained because of their theological beliefs and to recognize its international obligation to protect its citizens. He also urged authorities to allow the minority group to access their religious center.
The rapidly deteriorating state of human rights in Yemen has sparked significant international concern. Last month international human rights groups issued a joint letter [JURIST report] to the permanent representatives of member and observer states of the UN Human Rights Council urging them “to support the High Commissioner’s call for an international, independent investigation into civilian deaths and injuries in Yemen.” The letter pointed out that nearly 3,800 civilians have been killed and more than 6,700 wounded since March 2015. In August the UN High Commissioner for human rights called on the global community [JURIST report] to establish an independent international body for conducting comprehensive investigations of human rights violations in Yemen. According to a report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released that same month, the civilian death estimate was at 2,800 [JURIST report] in January, which would mean that approximately another 1,000 have died in as little as nine months.