Close all Illegal Detention Centers in Yemen
  • 2017-09-07
    SAM |

    SAM Demands Closure of All Illegal Detention Centers in Areas Controlled by Houthis Militia and Saleh Forces and by the Army Loyal to the Legitimate Government

    SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that parties to the conflict in Yemen are detaining civilians in illegal prisons, at many Yemeni territories, that lack minimum legal conditions and humanitarian standards, as well as judicial oversight, thereby exacerbating the sufferings of the arbitrarily detained civilians. These prisons and detention centers are under conflicting parties’ power according to their location.

    SAM indicated that Houthis-Saleh militia are controlling prisons and detention centers in Sana’a, the capital, Amran, Hajjah, Ibb, Al-Baidha, Dhamar, and Hodiedah governorates, while the legitimate government is controlling prisons and detention centers in Taiz, Mareb, Lahaj, Abyan, Aden and Hadhramout. SAM has recently issued a statement calling for the closure of detention centers and prisons in Aden and Hadhramout, on 25 May 2017.

    SAM has documented more than 208 illegal detention centers and prisons managed by Houthis militia and Saleh’s forces, armed factions allied with the legitimate government, or military commanders in the legitimate government. Different sources, including victims and eyewitnesses, confirmed that detainees are subjected to physical and psychological torture, and were denied their basic rights as granted by the Yemeni constitution and international laws.

    Tawfeq Al-Humeidi, Monitoring and Documenting Officer at SAM, said “these secret and illegal prisons and detention centers are managed without judicial supervision, and in violation to the Yemeni constitution and international conventions and principles, including The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners of 1957, as well as the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners of 1990, and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment of 1988”.

    SAM organization indicated that its monitors have met former detainees and their relatives, in addition to friends and lawyers of detainees and activists, and reviewed documents, videos, pictures, and letters reveal cruel torture and inhuman treatment of detainees.

    SAM organization also, documented extralegal detention and enforced disappearance of many civilians by Houthis militia and Saleh forces, and by legitimate government factions in areas of their control, calling all parties to the conflict to stop immediately enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and torture of detainees. Also, urged conflicting parties to provide list of all detention centers, name of present detainees, and those who passed away during detention, also to allow visits for detainees’ relatives.

    “People taken into custody are entitled to the fundamental protections that all detainees should have, including being promptly brought before an independent authority, like a judge, provided specific reasons for their detention, and given the ability to contest the detention.

    Anyone not being prosecuted for a criminal offense may only be held for exceptional reasons of security, set out clearly in domestic law, and must be released as soon as the reasons for the deprivation of their liberty cease to exist. All such detainees should be brought promptly before a judge. Detention under such circumstances should be reviewed at least every six months. Every detainee must be treated humanely at all times. Visits from family members must be allowed if practicable, under applicable international humanitarian law).

    SAM organization confirms that the ban against torture and other ill-treatment is one of the most fundamental prohibitions in international human rights and humanitarian law. No exceptional circumstances may justify torture, and states are required to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture.

    SAM organization did not document declared and known detention centers; such as police stations[1], security administration, and central jails, rather it focused on documenting secret and informal prisons, such as schools, houses, clinics, mosques, archaeological castles, and secret places that turned into illegal detention centers where torture is widely practiced.

    The organization believes that the intensity of the conflict between the parties to the conflict, absence of the state and the disregard of human rights in addition to the mutual media and ideological “shipping” has transformed Yemen into a large prison, and forced each party to open detention centers and prisons, and torture and made to disappear each other’s’ opponents.


    Sana’a, the Capital

    Sam has observed horrific and humiliating torture methods in Al-Hadi school in Sana’a, where the detainees entered the “pressure cooker”[2], which is a very narrow, very hot room where the detainee is held for long periods of time. The abductees are placed in sand pits covering most of their bodies and then shot near them and over their heads, in “mock execution” practice. Also, they are subjected to severe beatings throughout the body and deprived from food for prolonged periods.

    (A) a detainees’ wife says that her husband was tortured for three months, and in the last month he has been tortured day and night, and his body was swollen due to torture.

    (M.H.)[3], told his wife that 4 abductees were taken to deserted place in Hizyaz, and placed them in pits that covers most of their bodies, and shot life ammunition on them, and a bullet hit his hand. His wife says that her husband gave his cloths for laundry and she noticed that its pockets are full of sand, also her husband asked her to bring him another shoe, and when asked about the old one, he told her that he has been pulled out of the sand and could not pull out his shoes.

    (G.N) told his family that he has been taken at night to remote place and placed him in hole and start shooting at him throughout night to force him to confess against one of his friends, and return him on the morning to the school.

    SAM organization has detected a secret detention center while torture is practiced and victims are disappeared, in Dar Al-Quran, beside the first armored division, where (M.M.T) died of torture. Also, another detention center in Hizyaz supervised by Abu Abdulmalik Al-Saraji, from Bani Bahloul, and Ali Ezzeddin Al-Mahaqri (Abu Hisham), who tortures detainees more than other supervisors.

    Houthis and Saleh group turned many houses of political leaders and military commanders into detention centers and prisons, including Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmer, vice presidents’ house in Hadda, businessman Hameed Al-Ahmer’s house, in Hadda, preacher Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani house in Al-Giraf, house of Dr. Musa Al-Ameri, chairman of Al-Rashad party in Dar Salm. All these houses were turned into secret detention centers, where Houthis-Saleh militia practice systematic torture. SAM also learnt from different sources that Yemeni politician Mohammed Qahtan, leader at Islah party, was detained in one of these houses, however SAM could not verify this information.

    According to eyewitnesses SAM interview, Dr. Al-Amer’s house became horrible detention center, contained tens of Houthis-Saleh militia’s opponents, where they have been subjected to brutal torture that left permanent clear signs on their bodies.

    According to eyewitnesses, when detainees arrive the detention, they kept in solitary confinement for months, without visits or contacts for extortion and to confiscate of their property, where they are forced under torture and threat to be killed, to call their relatives to send money, vehicles, or personal weapons to the militia.

    (H.A), was forced at gun point to call his relatives and asked them to hand over a Hi-Lux (Toyota) vehicle, also (M.M.) was forced to call his relatives to hand over a mini-bus priced at YR. 6 million. (D.S.) was forced to call his relatives to pay an amount of money to someone called sheikh Abu-Hussein. (A.K.) was forced to call his wife and ask her to deliver his personal weapon and another piece belongs to his neighbor.

    According to eyewitnesses, SAM has documented several methods of torture at Dr. Al-Ameri’s house, including sever bearing, electric shock, and hanging for longer periods, poking with sharp tools, access to toilet is limited to one time a day and for one minute, detainees are also punished with starvation and denial of the practice of worship, such as prayer.

    (S), a detainee’s wife told SAM that her husband informed her that three individuals of Houthis-Saleh militia used to beat him till he vomits blood and pass out due to sever torture, and they wake him up and repeat the beating.

    (M.M.) said that “signs of torture are still seen in my husband’s hand, although one year has passed since he was transferred from this place”, (A.S.) wife says, “when 1 saw him, following his transfer from Al-Ameri’s house, I found him like a ghost, I could not recognize him first, he was just black leather on bones, without blood or life”.

    (A.K.), when his wife saw him for the first time following his transfer from, she could not recognize him, he became very thin, his hair turned grey, and body turned black. Detainee (A.M.) told his wife that they used to beat him till pass out.

    Zein Al-Abedeen Detention Center – Hizyaz, Sana’a

    Zein Al-Abedeen detention center was a mosque and scientific center affiliated to sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Burihi, who was detained in Hizyaz, in 2016 with his son Suhaib. Houthis militia turned it into a detention center, and the building includes shops annexed to the mosque, used by the militia for detention, where 12 detainees were kept in each shop that lack ventilation or light, apart from small hole that light passes through.

    This detention center, consist of two sections, section one for detainees and section two known as (Al-Burj) (the tower), which is used for recruitment and to detain POW. Abu-Hashem Al administrate the facility-Mahaqri, investigation officer is Abu Ga’far, Abu Mu’taz, in charge of safe where detainees keep their belongings and in-charge of handling their affairs, Abu Ma’edh; Saleem Ma’edh, is in-charge of torture, and financial officer is Arafat Al-Masoudi.

    When detainees arrive, they are subjected to prolonged questioning sessions that extend to seven hours and more. Some indicated that interrogation sessions could last from dusk to dawn, where five interrogators investigate in turns, thereby depriving the detainees from sleep. Torture methods used by Houthis-Saleh militia, include (beatings, suspension and spraying with cold water throughout the night, preventing sleep and severe beatings, which leaves traces on the body).

    Prison’s regulations allow detainees to go to the toilet only three times a day, and the food is undesirable, and most detainees who can contact their relatives, depend on the food sent by their families, where they organized food supplies from their families on rotation, to avoid eating food provided by the detention center.

    Family visits, are allowed once each ten days only, and sometimes are canceled without any reason. Also, visits are conducted in one room for many detainees, with two guards in the same room. Detainees also are forced to attend (lectures) where Hussein Al-Houthis, founder of Houthis group, discourses (known as Malazim “booklets) are recited and taught by the education supervisor in the facility.

    Taiz Governorate:

    SAM organization indicated that, Taiz is the most congested area with prisons and detention centers in one small geographic domain that includes highest number of factions and groups, where the Organization has documented 53 prisons and detention centers, established by conflicting factions and organizations in the governorate, where some of them practice physical and psychological torture against the detainees.

    SAM also documented numerous violations against civilians in Al-Nahdha prison in Taiz, which were kept discreet, and detainees’ conditions could not be revealed, where detainees have been denied family visits, adequate food, ventilation, or exposure to sun light, also they’ve been denied adequate cover during winter time.

    (G.M.S.) tells SAM monitors that he was abducted in a military checkpoint affiliated to the army and resistance and accused of being Houthis combatant, and was detained at Al-Nahdha detention center and was subjected to torture throughout his detention period.

    This prison was closed months ago according to SAM monitors confirmation, who visited the place. However, it is still unknown who was in-charge of this facility, however credible information indicate that the administration has close relations with influential people in Islah party in Taiz.

    Abi Al-Abbas, UAE backed group and one of resistance factions, seized many police stations and turned them into detention centers, including Bab Musa, Al-Bab AL-Kabeer police stations, and Hail girls’ school, which are not supervised by the army or security administration in the governorate.

    (A.S.G.) says “following my detention, one of Abu Al-Abbas armed men, and while leaving the car to the detention center, kick me in my stomach and I passed out, then I was moved to one room in the school, where I’ve been beaten by rifles butts and their hands, and for three days in the facility, the jailors used to come the room and tell me that they will take me to the Saila (water stream) and slaughter, and this continued for several times”.

    On the other hand, Houthis-Saleh militia has established many prisons and detention centers in Taiz, some were closed following army and resistance restoration of the city, and others continued to be used as detention centers by the resistance. In Mujallia, center of Taiz, the militia used Arwa school, restored by legitimate forces late 2015, as detention center for civilians, fuel, and arms store, where detainees were used as human shields, and this is the same place where Dr. Abdulraheem Al-Same’ and Dr. Yassin Al-Qubati were detained.

    In AL-Gahmlya area, the militia turned internet cafes and private houses into detention centers, where torture is widely practiced, and SAM organization received statements confirming that. Houthis-Saleh armed men used Al-Digag building in the neighborhood, in addition to other neighboring buildings, as detention centers for their opponents, from all areas in Taiz, also Houthis commanders were in the neighborhood. Some of the released detainees confirmed that Houthis-Saleh militia practiced severe psychological and physical torture against civilians in these facilities.

    In Mawya junction in the road linking Taiz and Ibb cities, in Al-Saleh city, Houthis-Saleh militia has established one of its biggest detention centers in Taiz governorate, which is supervised by their senior filed commanders, and number of detainees could reach two thousand, according to estimation made by some released detainees.

    Eyewitnesses indicated that fighters of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition have bombed al-Saleh city with more than 30 missiles, however SAM could not verify casualties resulted from the attack. According to eyewitnesses, some of the city are used as stores for arms, and fuel, also as meetings venue for Houthis-Saleh field commanders, and detainees’ life is endangered by keeping them there as human shields.

    With the arrival of the UAE backed Security Belt forces to Mocha, SAM organization monitored establishment of many informal prisons and detention centers where detainees were subjected to torture, including CAC bank building,under the leadership of Thi Yazan al-Yafe’e, Mocha elementary court, in Mocha, affiliated to the emergency forces battalion commanded  by Najeeb Seif Al-Yafe’e, Ice Factory detention center affiliated to the 4th battalion commanded  by Raed Al-Yafe’e, and all these detention centers practice torture against civilian detainees, and detain them without any legal justifications or procedures.

    SAM organization also monitored existence of extremist groups, related to Al-Qaeda, in Taiz city, who controls Al-Hamza school, Hail Saeed Charity Society, and one building in Al-Sameel market, all these buildings were turned into detention centers and secret prisons, also Arwa school was used as premises for the Judicial Committee that issues rulings on people’s cases.

    Hodiedah Governorate:

    SAM organization has documented 24 detention centers and prisons in Hodiedah controlled by Houthis-Saleh militia, where they have seized and turned political leaders’ and military commanders’ houses into detention and torture centers, including president Abdorabo Hadi house and the vice president Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmer house, governor house, and other political leaders’ houses and farms. Police Officers’ club detention center is in Al-Houk neighborhood, and detainees there were tortured and used as human shield.[4]  “I’ve been imprisoned in Officers’ Club, and was subjected to psychological torture, and 50 of us have been using one bathroom, also the food was terrible, we’ve been accused of being from Daesh (ISIS) and agent of Americans, I’ve been released after ten days” said Qassim.

    Corniche Castle

    Turned into the most sever place for torture in Yemen by the militia, Corniche castle considered as one of the most famous tourism attraction in Hodiedah city, where more than 95 detainees, who are Houthis opponents, of different age groups were kept in the castle.

    (S.K.) said describing torture practiced by Houthis “the detainee is deprived from drinking water for prolonged periods, sometimes 36 hours, also from using the toilet, noting that most of the detainees are diabetics, such Mr. Yahya Heig and Mr. Amin Wasel”.  “prisoners are entered into a 3X3 very dark underground room known as the “pressure cooker”[5]. Detainees are tied by chains into the walls, beaten by chains and electricity cables, also deprived from drinking water till they pass out due to thirst and torture”, S.K. added.

    Waseem another survivor, told SAM that the militia forces detainees to stand with pair foot on empty tune fish cans for more than three hours, and his feet swell and the can cuts his sole.

    SAM organization has documented from several sources many forms of torture, in the Corniche Castle, including suspension with chains in contorted position where hands are tied to the feet, and if detainees wants to sleep his legs will be raised, and if he stands his body will be curved, and he remain is such position for days, sometimes for twenty days. SAM organization has documented a similar case from Al-Garahi, Beit Al-Faqeeh district, whose condition deteriorated and he is still subfreezing from torture consequences.

    Also among systematic torture methods, is plucking of beard, beating with chains on toes till they bleed, squeezing nails with pliers till they bleed, in addition to denial of medicines supplies, denial of visits, and holding detainees incommunicado.

    Dhamar Governorate

    Al-Wagibat Detention Center – Ma’bar

    Al-Wagibat detention center is in the center of Ma’bar city, in Gahran district, it was storehouse for seeds, without ventilation, light, windows, or sanitation and Houthis-Saleh militia turned it into secret detention center where most brutal torture was practiced.

    Hani, an ex-detainee said “when arriving the prison, the inmate is placed in a dark cell, where he can’t see even his own hands. Detainees eat and “relieve oneself” in the same room. At midnight detainees are summoned for questioning, with eyes blindfolded, and subjected to torture and sever beating, till he passes out, and suffers urinary and bowel incontinence, after one-week detainee will be moved into another room with other detainees, full of insects, without light, and they “relive oneself” in public without any privacy”.

    Muhannad, from the same detention center, informed SAM monitors that meals are not regular, and they receive rotten rice and bread, and beans mixed with insects and dust, and each three or four inmates share one piece of bread.

    “when the victim is transferred from Houthis prison in Dhamar city to Al-Wagibat prison on Ma’bar, the guards make him believe he will be executed somewhere, or will be thrown out of the military patrol vehicle while driving fast, or will be thrown from high altitude, and the guards discuss in a way that make the victim believe he will be killed. Also, when the detainees ask for water, they respond that they will make him drink urine, ordering one of them to urinate so the detainee may drink”, ex detainee Murad said.

    Jabal Hiran Detention Center -Dhamar

    SAM has documented a detention center in Jabal Hiran, which is a building near to the central water tank, consist of many rooms, and used by Houthis for torture and interrogation, then for detaining their political opponents, particularly from Islah party. Abu Tawoos is supervising this facility, and he is the cousin of the governorate ex supervisor, and deputy director of security in the governorate.

    Houthis-Saleh militia has turned many buildings into detention centers, and SAM has monitored such facility at the community college building, which consists of two story and number of hangars and halls, in Dhamar-Sana’a road where torture is widely practiced, and the building was bombed by Arab Coalition fighters.

    SAM organization also, monitored and documented another detention center at the playground northern Dhamar city, where the rooms under the stands are used as prisons to hide and torture the opponents, while it was rented before as warehouse.

    Al-Baidha Governorate

    Al-Ameria Castle Detention Center

    Al-Amria is an archaeological castle turned by Houthis-Saleh militia into prison and detention center for hundreds of their opponents from different governorates, following Houthis invasion of Al-Baidha in 2014, also arms were stored in the castle, and guns, cannons and heavy artillery were deployed in the guarding towers. SAM organization has documented many statements describing Houthis-Saleh militia treatment to the detainees:

    (S.M.), 49, an ex-detainee in Al-Amria castle says “we were detained in the castle prison in Rad’a, and kept as human shields, and Houthis kept us in purpose in the higher floors to be secured from airstrikes. We were stuffed into a small 2X3 room, with 22 detainees from different governorates, we were like dead for six months”, “inmates’ money was confiscated, and we lived in darkness, no lambs, or candles, we were denied soap and detergents, water is contaminated and we get it from the bathroom, and it was often mixed with sewerage water” he added.

    Wael, another released detainee said, “many detainees were left in the prison without interrogation, and some were questioned for hours continuously with beating, and the torture varies from beating with hands, on the face, beating with electricity cables, and sticks on the back and buttocks and in sensitive parts, torture also include stripping, and spraying detainees with cold water at the terrace and left to freeze”.      

    Al-Satya Detention Center – Al-Malagim

    SAM organization detected a detention center in the Health Center in Al-Malagim, on Al-Baidha-Mareb road, known as Al-Watya prison, and considered one of the worst prisons in the governorate and contains hundreds of abductees and detainees, who are passengers from different governorates, and were abducted from checking points in Al-Watya area, on the road to Mareb. SAM has received confirmed reports that the prison is notorious and many crimes and different methods of torture are practiced against civilians in the prison.

    Ibb Governorate

    SAM organization has documented more than 27 detention centers in Ibb governorates, which used to be schools, houses, mosques Quran memorization centers, that Houthis-Saleh militia turned into detention centers and informal prisons where torture against civilians is practiced, namely; sheikh Ali Musid Bender house, and house at Addaram neighborhood, near 55th brigade of the republican guard, which us a two-story building and consist of many rooms, one room is used as a command and control center by Houthis. SAM interviewed some victims who were detained and tortured in this facility, in addition to another house belongs to sheikh Ali Musid Beder, near Addalie junction, in Yareem market, used by Houthis as detention and torture center.

    SAM monitors also documented turning house of brigadier general Askar Zu’eel as detention center, who were imprisoned and tortured in the basement. SAM also interviewed some of the ex-detainees who confirmed this information. SAM also received reports on Al-Qala’a prison, yet not verified, however SAM documented information on detention of sheikh Al-Sabal and his guards, who died under torture in the same detention center [6].

    Mareb Governorate

    SAM organization has documented many detention centers and prisons supervised by the commanders of Yemeni army loyal to the legitimate government, including Al-Amnyat detention centers, supervised by Abu Mohammed, and another one Qahafiz detention center, near Al-Wadi’a border entry point in Saudi-Yemeni borders, where according to an eyewitness Qahafiz is a detention center used to keep people who were arbitrarily detained.

    Amin Yahya Zabiba, an ex-detainee says, “I was detained, robbed and tortured in an unethical and inhuman manner, I was forced to dig my grave in the desert with my bare hand, and I dig till my skin was torn apart, I was buried and covered with sand till I pass out, and they take me out and pour cold water to wake me up”.

    “my hands were tied with my legs to my neck and put the rope like a rein in my mouth like a donkey, and one of them was stepping with his boot on my cheeks and rub them and says “I dishonor you.. you are shameless” and he enters the boot in my mouth and another one closes my nose, so as not to breath, I was beaten with iron rods till I pass out and I don’t what else they did” he added.

    “I wake in the next day, unable to move for many days.. what kind of people these people are.. I was never questioned, I was kept there till signs of torture disappeared and I was released.. I refused to go out until I knew what is the motive or reason to do what they did, but I receive no answer, I was forced to leave and they did not return my documents, contracts and trade register, passport and money they have taken earlier” he added.

    SAM organization also, documented a detention center affiliated to the military intelligence of the legitimate government, where Mabkhout Saleh Mabkhout Al-Naemi, died, and a signs if torture were detected on his body, and authorities in Mareb says that it is resulted from a fight between him and other prisoners based on old revenge case, however his family members accuse the authorities of killing him, under the allegation that his brother is member to Houthis-Saleh  Political Bureau in Sana’a.

    SAM monitors also confirmed death of Mohammed Naji Muret bin Askar, in Al-Mahkama prison, controlled by the Public Security, after being detained for more than one and half years, by the Commander of the region for collaboration with Houthis allegations.

    Other Governorates

    In Amran governorate, Houthis-Saleh militia turned Al-Thawra Sports Playground into a huge detention center, as Sana’a prisons and detention centers were overcrowded with detainees. Some houses, schools and mosques were also turned into detention and torture centers, including Ima Ali school and mosque in Al-Gannat, health center in Al-Qushibi neighborhood. SAM also received reports that Houthis militia established a detention center and prison in each of the twenty districts of Amran, which is supervised by its commanders.

    In Hajjah, SAM monitored many detention centers established by Houthis-Saleh militia, including in Education Administration, which is ancient building used in the past by Imams to detain rebels before 1962,  and now to detain civilians, and Islah institute in the city, which was a training center turned into detention center by Houthis, following its seizure by them in May 2015, and continued to be a secret detention center where torture is practiced, till  it was handed over to the landlord, and the detainees were transferred into another secret location belongs to Ibrahim AL-Kuhlani. SAM also confirmed existence of detention centers and prisons consist of containers and iron boxes, used to sore and transport goods, where civilians are detained and human rights are violated.

    In Sa’da, SAM organization documented more than 16 detention centers, including houses, schools, and government buildings, where torture is practiced against civilians. In Al-Jouf, SAM documented one detention center in Al-Nims house, where detainee Soud Mohammed Al-Fad, 29, was died.

    Finally, SAM Organization would like to confirm its condemnation to all these detention centers and prisons, and denounce all violations that have been perpetrated, and calls upon Houthis-Saleh militia, as de facto power, the legitimate government, and UAE to commit to the international human rights conventions, that consider these detention centers as violation to the international law, and consider such practices against abducted civilians as “crimes against humanity”.

    SAM Organization is attaching a list of the prisons and detention centers and their locations and other details.


    SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties,

    Genève, 7 September 2017


    [1] Police stations in this report are that one controlled by the militia, without executive power (police) supervision

    [2]This name will be repeated in more detention centers run by Houthis-Saleh militia.

    [3] All acronyms of victims and eyewitnesses are not true, they have been concealed fearing any harm might impact them by the oppressors. SAM keeps all detailed names and statements.

    [4] please refer to “Brutal Killing” report, issued by SAM that includes stories on the human shield used by Houthis-Saleh

    [5] the same term is used by Houthis-Saleh group in Al-Hadi detention center in Sana’a, indicating that torture is a systematic practice

    [6] Please refer to “Brutal Killing” report, issued by SAM that includes torture and execution case of Mohammed Zeid Al-Sabal, and Basheer Shrafat

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