Amnesty urges 'war crimes' probe into 'disappearances, torture' of Yemenis by UAE-backed forces
The Amnesty report, issued on Thursday, accuses the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemeni forces operating "outside the command of their own government," of multiple violations against detainees in the war-torn country.
"Scores" have been subjected to arrest and detention without charge, violent and humiliating torture, and enforced disappearances, the report says. Families are kept in the dark on the fate of their relatives, as "their requests are met with silence or intimidation," according to Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
"Ultimately these violations, which are taking place in the context of Yemen's armed conflict, should be investigated as war crimes," she said in a statement.
Hassan said the US, as one of the main counter-terrorism partners, "must also take a stand against allegations of torture." This included "investigating the role of US personnel in detention-related abuses in Yemen, and by refusing to use information that was likely obtained through torture or other ill-treatment," she explained.
The Amnesty investigation was conducted between March 2016 and May 2018 in the southern provinces of Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Shabwa, and Hadramout. The organization talked to some victims, who shared "horrific accounts of abuse" by UAE-backed forces including beatings, use of electric shocks and sexual violence. Some did not survive the violence, according to a witness, who saw "a fellow detainee being carried away in a body bag after being repeatedly tortured."
"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," Hassan said.
Arrests targeted not only those suspected of links to terrorism, but were based on "unfounded suspicions and personal vendettas." The forces dealt with critics of the coalition and the UAE-backed troops' actions, including community figures, activists and journalists among others.
The Amnesty report echoes the previous findings of an Associated Press (AP) investigation into the harrowing conditions hundreds of detainees face at Emirati-controlled prisons in Yemen. Shortly after the AP revelations, the UN Human Rights Office requested access to the facilities in question, saying that they have "reasons to believe that a number of Yemeni detainees have been subjected to ill-treatment, torture and sexual abuse by UAE soldiers."
Abu-Dhabi has repeatedly denied the claims, saying it saying does not run secret facilities or torture detainees. Following the reports on the abuses Yemeni Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maysari demanded to shut down or hand over the black sites. At least 80 detainees have been freed from the facilities in recent weeks, according to AP.
Emirates are a key member in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition which is fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen in attempt to restore the ousted government of President Hadi. The coalition actions have been repeatedly condemned by rights groups and the UN, including for the humanitarian disaster which Yemen is facing due to the conflict. More than 22 million Yemenis need assistance, with 60 percent of the population lacking food and more than half of the country left without basic medical services, according to the UN.
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