The Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) urges the international community to demand for the accountability and justice for the 113 civilians tortured and killed in detention centers run by Houthi militia in Yemen. AFHR affirms that such cruel treatment of detainees especially in times of conflict is a gross violation of international human rights principles and values, and may constitute a war crime under international law.
Rights Radar (RR), a Netherlands based organization for Human Rights in the Arab world, recently released a report that documents the arbitrary detention, torture, and killing of 113 detainees inside detention centers run by the Houthi rebel group since 21 September 2014 when they staged a coup in Yemen. According to the report, these prisoners were brutally torture to death in illegal detention centers run by the Houthis in the capital Sanaa and other cities under Houthi control.
Additionally, the number of detainees inside Houthi detentions investigated by the Netherlands based rights group is estimated at 7,000, and they are held in over 643 illegal prisons of Houthi militia across Yemen. These arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians has been ongoing since the rebel group seize control of the capital in 2014.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights asserts that the use of torture or other cruel treatment which leads to the deaths of prisoners is strictly against international humanitarian, legal and human rights instruments which may amount to war crimes and crime against humanity.
Article 1 of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment considers torture to include any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purpose punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. Article 2 also states that No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. The convention further mandates its state members to criminalize any act of torture within its criminal code.
In response to the report, the Yemeni Human Rights Minister Mohammed Askar confirmed that the figures mentioned by Rights Radar are just estimates and that the actual numbers are much more higher. He equally stated that in 2017 alone, the number of cases of abduction and arbitrary detention had reached 1,930, including 400 forced cases of disappearance, which made last year the worst ever with the highest number of abductions since the beginning of the coup. In total, there had been more than 18,000 abductions cases majority of which are attributed to the Houthi militia and their allies forces loyal to deceased former president Ali Saleh.
The Yemeni Human Rights Minister further specified that they have documented a larger number of torture victims of the Houthi rebels in Sanaa, Taiz, Hajjah and Dhamar, noting that Dhamar houses the biggest detention center in Yemen. He equally highlighted that the Yemeni government had issued many reports about the number of people detained by them and their disregard to respect international human rights norms as well as the Houthi militia’s practice of state terrorism.
Therefore, the Arab Federation of Human Rights urgently calls on the United Nations and the international community to investigate these claims of torture and killings of detainees in Houthi-held detention centers and to hold the perpetrators accountable by referring them to the International Court of Justice for war crimes against the Yemeni people. AFHR also calls for the UN Security Council to impose very strict sanctions on the Houthi rebel group and to pressure them to cease terrorizing the Yemeni population.
In addition, AFHR urges the UN, Arab League and international mediation experts to work collaboratively with the legitimate government in Yemen to restore peace and security in the country with is crucial to economic and sustainable growth of the nation. The Federation further calls on the UN and the international community to support and cooperate with legitimate government to put an end for Houthi violations.
Arab Federation for Human Rights
Geneva, January 11th 2018