Amnesty International says the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — a key partner of Saudi Arabia in a military aggression against and partial occupation of Yemen — and its allied local militia have been torturing captives at a network of clandestine prisons in southern Yemen.
The UK-based rights group further revealed in a statement on Thursday that large numbers of Yemeni men had been subjected to enforced disappearance after being arbitrarily arrested by the Emirati and militia forces.
“The families of these detainees find themselves in an endless nightmare where their loved ones have been forcibly disappeared by UAE-backed forces. When they demand to know where their loved ones are held, or if they are even still alive, their requests are met with silence or intimidation,” said Tirana Hassan, the director of crisis response at Amnesty International.
Last month, the UAE mission in Geneva said that militia fighting on the Emirates’ behalf were in “complete” control of prison systems in southern Yemen, including the port city of Aden, which a former Yemeni regime has self-proclaimed as its “capital.”
Sana’a, the official capital of Yemen, is in control of Yemeni army troops and the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.
However, Ahmed al-Maysari, the “interior minister” designated by that former regime — which is now seeking a return to power by force — contradicted the Emirati mission by calling on Abu Dhabi to shut down or hand over the prisons it runs in southern Yemen, potentially indicating disagreements within the coalition.
‘Emirates conducting war crimes’
Amnesty said in its statement that through an investigation it had conducted between March 2016 and May 2018 in the southern provinces of Aden, Lahij, Abyan, Shabwah, and Hadhramaut, it had managed to document the widespread use of torture and other forms of ill treatment in Emirati facilities, including beatings, the use of electric shockers, and sexual violence.
“The UAE, operating in shadowy conditions in southern Yemen, appears to have created a parallel security structure outside the law, where egregious violations continue to go unchecked,” further said Hassan, adding, “Ultimately these violations, which are taking place in the context of Yemen’s armed conflict, should be investigated as war crimes.”
Abu Dhabi has denied that it is involved in unlawful detention practices in Yemen, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Amnesty added.
On June 20, the Associated Press, citing victims and witnesses, reported that Emirati officers had been torturing and sexually assaulting hundreds of captives at the UAE-run prisons in southern Yemen.
A report reveals hundreds of detainees have suffered torture and sexually abuse by the Emirati officers at the jails Abu Dhabi runs in war-torn Yemen.
At the time, Amnesty called the AP report “shocking,” and said US officials “continue to dismiss these credible allegations.”
Saudi Arabia and some of its vassal states, including the UAE, launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall its former regime, which had been an ally of Riyadh but had resigned and initially fled into exile.
The offensive initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen. Neither the war not the blockade have been mandated by the United Nations (UN).
The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights announced in a statement on March 25 that the war had left 600,000 civilians dead and injured until then. The war and the accompanying blockade have also caused famine across Yemen.
The Saudi-led aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.
Several Western countries, the United States and Britain in particular, supply the Saudi-led coalition with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.