Reports by the Associated Press (AP) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have revealed a network of extralegal prisons run by the United Arab Emirates and UAE-backed forces in southern Yemen. These prisons reportedly house people suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Islamic State. Both the AP and HRW have found evidence of widespread abuse by security forces, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and widespread torture. Disturbingly, there are indications that US military personnel have been aware of--and possibly involved in--the torture and abuse of Yemeni prisoners. Former prisoners and Yemeni soldiers told the AP that US forces had been present in prisons while inmates were being tortured, and US officials told the AP that US forces provide questions to and receive interrogation transcripts from UAE and Yemeni authorities at these prisons. The YPP condemns the illegal and inhuman behavior described in these reports, and calls on the US Congress to investigate the involvement of US personnel in these abuses.
We're pleased to publish this guest post by Dr. Abdulkader Alguneid, a physician and activist from Ta'iz. Dr. Abdulkader was kidnapped from his home by Houthi fighters in August 2015; he was released after 300 days of illegal imprisonment and torture in May 2016.
It was mid-day, and I was in a tight, dim cell with two companions.
The clanging sound of the iron door being unlocked came suddenly and loudly, startling and unnerving us. These doors never opened, day after day and month after month, except for the most unusual, or for taking an inmate out for interrogation or something unpleasant.
A new report by Human Rights Watch details the Houthi forces' practice of arbitrarily detaining and disappearing individuals with ties--real or imagined--to the Islah Party or other opposition groups. The report provides details of more than 20 cases of arbitrary detention and forced disappearance, out of 35 cases confirmed by HRW investigators. The people illegally detained by the Houthis include political activists, Islah party members, journalists, and lawyers. According to one Yemeni attorney interviewed by HRW, more than 800 people are currently being held by Houthi authorities in and around San‘a:
He said that based on information he has gathered from sources knowledgeable about detentions, the Houthis were holding at least 250 at al-Thawra pretrial detention facility, 180 at Habra pretrial detention facility, 167 at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), 165 opposition figures at Sanaa Central Prison, 73 at the Political Security Organization’s headquarters, 20 at al-Judairi police station, 10 at one of the homes of the former First Armored Division commander, Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, and an unknown number at Zain al-Abdeen mosque in Hiziyaz.
Based on interviews with witnesses and family members, the report claims that Houthi authorities are depriving many detainees of food and water, preventing them from contacting anyone on the outside, and holding them in otherwise illegal and abusive conditions. One journalism student, for example, who has been imprisoned for more than four months, was "first held for three days without food or being allowed to use the bathroom." A professor at San‘a University's medical school "was being held in a three-by-three meter cell with 14 other men and was only allowed to use the bathroom once a day."