Tik Root | The Atlantic
SANA'A, YEMEN -- On Saturday, Mohammed Haza'a was put to death by the Yemeni government despite legitimate questions as to whether he was under the age of 18 when he committed an alleged murder.
In 1999, Mohammed shot an intruder at his home in the central Yemeni city of Tiaz. The man later died of his wounds. Various judges, including the one who made the initial ruling, determined that the killing was self-defense and that Mohammed was underage at the time of the crime. Ignoring these concerns, an appeals court eventually sentenced him to death.
George Abu Al-Zulof, a child protection specialist at UNICEF, describes in chilling detail how firing squads carry out their orders. "They put them on the ground, they cover them with the blanket and then a doctor comes and points around the heart from the back side. Then they shoot three to four bullets [into] the heart."
Mohammed's execution was denounced by the European Union and comes on the heels of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report condemning the Yemeni government's use of the juvenile death penalty. Released last week, the report makes clear that international law, to which Yemen is a signatory, "prohibits, without exception, the execution of individuals for crimes committed before they turn 18."
Nevertheless, Bede Sheppard, a senior researcher at HRW, said that there is still a "very small and unpleasant club" made up of four countries - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan -which continue to carry out the practice. The United States could be included in that group until as recently as 2005, when the Supreme Court finally outlawed the death penalty for minors.