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Amnesty calls for probe of torture claims in Yemen prisons

Thursday, July 12, 2018
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An international rights group is calling for an investigation into alleged disappearances, torture and likely deaths in prisons run by the United Arab Emirates and allied militias in southern Yemen.

Amnesty International said in a report on Thursday that it has documented "systemic enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment, amounting to war crimes" in the facilities.

The report said "some (detainees are) feared to have died in custody".

Based on more than 70 interviews, the authors said "cruel and unlawful" practices were being committed in those prisons.

Amnesty called on the Emirati government to immediately stop the torture, and to release detainees.

In the meantime, it said the US should suspend intelligence gathering cooperation with the UAE, and stop supplying it with weapons.

Amnesty said that the 51 cases of enforced disappearance took place between March 2016 and May 2018.

Nineteen of the men remain missing, it said.

Amnesty said it had collected testimonies from released detainees and relatives of the missing across Yemen.

One former detainee told Amnesty that "UAE soldiers at a coalition base in Aden repeatedly inserted an object into his anus until he bled" and that he was "kept in a hole in the ground with only his head above the surface and left to defecate and urinate on himself in that position". 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.

At the time, Amnesty called the AP report “shocking,” and said US officials “continue to dismiss these credible allegations.”

Last year, the Associated Press news agency reported that the UAE and its allied militias were running a network of secret detention facilities, beyond the control of the Yemeni government.

In June, the AP revealed that hundreds of detainees had been subjected to sexual abuse and torture.

On Wednesday, Yemen called on the UAE to close the informal prisons.

The UAE has denied involvement in prisons across southern Yemen.

On Monday, Reem al-Hashimi, the UAE minister for international cooperation, met with former Yemen's President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and former Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maysari, who "insisted on the need to close the prisons and place them under judicial control", according to Yemeni state media.

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.