Inside Houthis’ illegal prison: fragile bodies and skeletons

The Abductees’ Mothers Association in Yemen recently released a statement revealing an extralegal detention facility run by Houthi militias within the central prison in Hudaydah province. The Hunaysh detention facility has reportedly been used to illegally hold 70 female abductees without rights or access to counsel since January 2017.

The statement brings to light details about the activities of the Houthi militias at Hunaysh prison, and how they isolate the abductees from the outside world. According to some family witnesses, the female abductees have been subjected to torture and systematic starvation, and have been forced to drink contaminated water. Many of the abductees have “turned into skeletons” and are suffering with disease and skin ulcers. The militias also prevent anyone from accessing Hunaysh prison and deceive visiting committees by showing them different inmates at the central prison in an attempt to hide their war crimes, according to the statement.

The statement also condemned the Houthis’ abduction, mistreatment and enforced disappearance of the female abductees, and called upon all humanitarian and human right organizations to intervene and rescue the abductees. “We hold the Houthi and Saleh armed groups responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of all our children inside their prisons, and we demand that they be released unconditionally,” the association said.

In a previous statement from April 2017, the Abductees’ Mothers Association accused the prison guards at Hunaysh prison of opening fire on the inmates of the prison, which led to the serious injury of four inmates who were later on transferred to a hospital without the knowledge of their parents.

There is nothing necessarily surprising in the statement’s content. The Houthi armed group has arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned nearly 4,800 persons including political leaders, journalists and critics over the past two years to tighten its grip on the areas it controls and to remove its opponents from the political scene.  The high number of detainees has triggered several protests among human rights, political, and media activists calling for the international community to pressure the militias to release these detainees.