Lawyers for a US citizen disappeared in Yemen are calling on the Houthi government to confirm his well-being and end his enforced disappearance, on the day that marks a year since he was last seen.
Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by legal representatives from international human rights organisation Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana’a’s central prison. When they returned three weeks later, Reprieve staff were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s lawyers to access him have since failed.
In the past year, US and Yemeni officials have repeatedly refused to disclose Sharif’s location or give him access to his legal representatives or independent human rights observers. Like US law, Yemeni law guarantees criminal defendants the right to access an attorney. Mr Mobley has spoken briefly on a handful of occasions to his wife, it is believed on a guard’s personal mobile phone. Recent information suggests US officials may have failed to secure legal access for Mr Mobley because the US is implicated in this second disappearance. A Yemeni security source recently told NBC news that “Sharif Mobley had been transferred in co-ordination with the U.S. and that American officials have participated in his interrogation.”
Last year at least seven hearings passed without Sharif being brought to court, with no explanation from the government. Earlier this year, the rebel Houthi group assumed control of Yemen’s government, and this week announced that they have taken over two further military bases on the outskirts of Sana’a. In light of recent events, Sharif’s lawyers are calling on the Houthis to confirm that he is alive and well, and to end his enforced disappearance by letting him speak to his legal team, investigating the circumstances of his disappearance, and taking appropriate remedial action for the gross violation of due process in Mr Mobley’s criminal trial, potentially to include the withdrawal of charges.
The US State Department, which knows where Sharif is being held, has refused to tell his lawyers or his family of his whereabouts. The US has now closed its embassy in Yemen and evacuated all staff.
Cori Crider, Director at Reprieve and Mr Mobley’s attorney, said:
“Sharif Mobley has been disappeared with the apparent collusion of the United States government twice – and this time he’s been gone for a year while Yemen has disintegrated. It is starting to look like those US agents were right in 2010 when they said that, as far as the US is concerned, even US citizens ‘have no Constitutional rights in Yemen’. But that’s wrong, both legally and ethically. Sharif has rights under both the US Constitution and Yemeni law – all ignored for the past year. The Houthi authorities should immediately confirm that Sharif is safe and well and let him speak to his lawyers. And since the legal process against Sharif has been irretrievably compromised, the United States needs to intervene for an investigation of this enforced disappearance and the potential evacuation of its citizen. A year in secret detention is enough.”