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Yemeni human rights activist Hisham Al-Omeisy missing for over 150 days

Indonesian people hold a protest against air strikes in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11 October 2016
Indonesian people hold a protest against air strikes in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11 October 2016

Jefta Images / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Update: Hisham Al Omeisy was released on 15 January 2017, after spending over five months in detention.

This statement was originally published on on 11 January 2018. It was written by Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights.

It has been 150 days since Yemeni political analyst, rights activist and blogger Hisham Al-Omeisy was detained by Houthi rebels.

At approximately 2:45 pm on 14 August 2017, a group of security officers from the Houthi-controlled National Security Bureau (NSB) arrested Hisham Al-Omeisy in the neighborhood of Jawlat al-Misbahi in the capital Sana'a.

According to a local journalist, Al-Omeisy was arrested for exchanging emails in English with US-based organizations. Although 150 days have passed since Al-Omeisy's arrest, he remains in an undisclosed location and has not been charged, a violation of Yemeni law and international law.

Since his arrest, he has been held incommunicado where he has no access to a lawyer nor his family. All this suggests that Al-Omeisy has become a victim of enforced disappearance, a practice many other Yemenis have been subjected to, either at the hands of Houthis or the Saudi-led coalition fighting against them.

His family members - including his wife and two young sons, Khaled and Saif - are concerned about his health and safety.

Nearly three years ago, the country plunged into an armed conflict, with Houthi rebels fighting to seize power from the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is supported by a Saudi-led coalition. Forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh (who was removed from power following street protests in 2011) had fought against the Houthis, until Saleh changed his position and called for dialogue with Saudi Arabia. On 4 December 2017, the Houthis killed Saleh.

Yemen is still in the throes of a crippling civil war and and regional conflict that has resulted in a full-blown humanitarian and health crisis, with more than one million Yemenis having contracted cholera. Advocates have documented massive human rights violations committed by all parties fighting in the ongoing civil war.

Before his detention, Al-Omeisy was outspoken about the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

Through his Twitter account and his contributions to international media, he provided commentary and analysis on Yemen's conflict and reported on daily events including airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

He also denounced violations committed by the different warring parties and spoke out about the humanitarian impact of the conflict. Prior to his 12 August arrest, he tweeted in both Arabic and English about "corrupt officials" confiscating real estate by force in the capital Sana'a, which is under Houthi control. The arrest and detention of Al-Omeisy is another example of the harassment and targeting of human rights defenders and journalists in Yemen as they attempt to draw attention to the ongoing conflict and strive to promote and protect human rights.

GCHR expresses serious concern for the health and safety of Hisham Al-Omeisy, particularly as he is being held incommunicado in an undisclosed location. GCHR expresses further concern for the situation of all those in Yemen who are being targeted as a result of legitimately reporting on the conflict.

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