On 22 March an appeals court in Sana’a, Yemen upheld a religiously-motivated death sentence against Mr. Haydara who has been imprisoned since 2013. – Source: bic.org

For several years now, I have spoken about the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, and before I was appointed to the Canadian Senate, I represented many Baha’is, as a refugee lawyer. The persecution faced by Baha’is in Iran today has few parallels in human history, and now their persecution has begun to spread across the region.

Last year I shared a press release of the Baha’i International Community about Hamed bin Haydara of Yemen, who at the time was appealing a religiously-motivated death sentence handed to him by Houthi authorities in 2018. Mr. Haydara, a follower of the Baha’i faith, was arrested from his workplace in 2013 and has been imprisoned in Sana’a, Yemen ever since.

Mr. Haydara has faced a lack of due process since his arrest. He was held in prison for 14 months without charge, subjected to torture and psychological abuse, denied medical treatment, and forced to sign documents while blindfolded.

After a series of hearings and delayed rulings throughout 2019, a Houthi appeals court upheld a death sentence verdict on March 22, 2020. When Mr. Haydara was sentenced to public execution in January 2018, the judge also ordered the closure of all Baha’i institutions in Yemen.

Just over a year ago, Canada along with the governments of Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement on the situation of the Baha’is in Yemen. Together we called on the Houthi authorities “to immediately release all Baha’is in their custody,” insisting that “respect for religious freedom is an essential building block for peace and prosperity in Yemen.”

We must continue to stand up for the Baha’is, even in the midst of the global health pandemic that is currently unfolding. As Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, stated:

“At a time when the international community is battling a global health crisis, it is incomprehensible that the authorities in Sanaa have upheld a death sentence against an innocent individual solely because of his beliefs instead of focusing on safeguarding the population, including Baha’is,”

Hamed bin Haydara is not alone, over 20 other members of Yemen’s Baha’i community face charges as well, some of which carry a penalty of capital punishment.

It is hard for us who live in a country that respects freedom of religion or belief to imagine what it means to live in a society that does not. The human rights violations against the Baha’is are inexcusable, and it falls upon us to speak out against these injustices.

*Update: 3/25/2020 – Mr. Mahdi al-Mashat, President of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, ordered a pardon for Hamed bin Haydara and also ordered the release of all Baha’i prisoners in Yemen. I will continue to monitor the situation closely. Read more: Houthi authorities order the release of all Baha’i prisoners in Yemen