Amnesty International’s May report on detention and disappearance in Houthi-controlled Yemen examines 60 cases of Houthi forces arresting political opposition figures, activists, and journalists as part of their efforts to suppress opposition. Those arrested are held without charge for as long as 17 months, sometimes tortured and mistreated, and consistently denied legal representation. To arrive at their findings, Amnesty conducted interviews between May 2015 and April 2016 with 12 former detainees and over 60 relatives and friends of those imprisoned, as well as activists and lawyers.
Amnesty was unable to determine the exact number of political detainees, but one San’a-based lawyer said relatives of more than 200 detainees have submitted reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. The total number of political prisoners held by Houthi forces in Yemen is likely much higher.
Those who have witnessed or have been subject to arrest say that Ansarullah, the Houthi’s political wing, “carried out detentions in homes, in front of family members, at security checkpoints, at workplaces, or in public venues such as mosques, without arrest warrants and with no explanation of the reasons or grounds for detention, and without providing any information about where the detained were being taken.”
We found out that [our relative] was being tortured in a barbaric manner and his health was deteriorating. We begged the Houthis in every way possible to permit us to visit him but they continued to refuse our requests...After many mediation efforts with Houthi officials and their political office [Ansarullah], we were permitted to see him for a short visit in Eid al-Adha...Since then [mid-September], we have not been able to see him or check up on him.
Detainees who are suspected to have voiced opposition to the Houthi takeover or spoken in favor of the Saudi-led coalition are labelled as “dawa’ish” (supporters of ISIS), or “supporters of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition aggression on Yemen,” in an attempt to justify their detention. Some journalists are accused of providing GPS coordinates to the coalition.
Amnesty International recommends that “The de facto Houthi authorities and aligned institutions in San’a, as well as the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and any post-war government, should ensure that...all such cases are investigated impartially and independently and that individuals against whom sufficient admissible evidence is found of responsibility for serious violations, are prosecuted in proceedings that fully respect international fair trial standards. Victims and their families must receive full reparation.”