Yemen: killing of Human Rights Defender and Academic in Sana’a (joint communication)

Photo credit: Gulf Center For Human Rights


On 16 September 2021, I wrote a joint communication concerning the killing of academic and human rights defender Dr. Mohammed Ali Naim. The communication was addressed to the de facto authorities in the region of Yemen in question, who under international law, are responsible for ensuring respect for international human rights law for individuals in the territory under their control.

Dr. Mohammed Ali Naim was the Director of the Engineering Consulting Centre as well as a professor of the Architectural Department at the College of Engineering, both at Sana’a University. He was formerly Dean of the College of Engineering at Amran University. As well as being a distinguished academic Dr. Naim was a human rights defender and used Facebook as a platform to speak out against alleged corruption and to defend civil and other human rights.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


On 4 August 2021 at approximately 9.30pm, Dr. Naim was assassinated by unidentified gunmen while leaving the house of one of his friends in Sana’a. Security services reported that Dr. Naim was shot 4 times and died at the scene.

Dr. Naim was active on his Facebook page hours prior to his assassination, and published a post in which he called for the authorities in Sana’a and Aden to increase salaries so that they reflect the cost of living. Earlier that day, Dr. Naim also republished a post he had written on 4 August 2020, calling for accountability for alleged corruption.

According to reports, one of the gunmen was arrested hours after the shooting and confessed to the crime, stating he was motivated by “personal disputes” he had with Dr. Naim on Facebook. On 22 August, a hearing was held before the Public Prosecution in Sana’a during which the accused
denied his previous confession. At the time of writing, the investigation is ongoing and the possibility that there was more than one gunman has not been ruled out.


In the communication, we expressed serious concern about the assassination of human rights defender and academic Dr. Mohammed Ali Naim, as we believe he may have been targeted for reasons relating to his work protecting and promoting human rights, including in online spaces. We are concerned that Dr. Naim’s death will deter other human rights defenders from speaking out against human rights violations and abuses in Yemen for fear of retaliation.

We wish to remind that in addition to its obligations under international humanitarian law, Ansar Allah, as the de facto authority is responsible for ensuring respect for international human rights law for individuals in the territory under their control.


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