SAM Monitors Brutal Practices and Torture in Houthis’ Prisons that Amount to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity
  • 28/01/2021
    SAM |

    Geneva- SAM for Rights and Liberties stated that it monitored serious violations that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity in several detention facilities run by the Houthi forces, cautioning that the way the international community still follows to deal with the Yemeni file will lead to perpetrating more violations and horrific crimes against Yemeni civilians, particularly women.

    SAM mentioned that its research team obtained testimonies from former female detainees as well as the testimony of a woman who used to work at a Houthi prison which reflected the extent of grave crimes committed by these forces without taking into account the special protection that was established under the international women’s law in many international treaties.

    The organization drew attention in its statement to the amount of suffering that thousands of women experience because of Houthi militia’s increased harassment and the deprivation of right to life and life with dignity in addition to domestic burden. The organization also indicated that it issued many previous reports which proved without any doubt that the Houthi militia has been perpetrating systematic violations against women including arbitrary detention and torture against approximately 200 women detained in Houthis’ detention facilities. The organization pointed out that Yemeni women are being subjected to various forms of violations, oppression and humiliation. “Sam” also stated that there were thousands of heartbreaking stories which embody the amount of women’s suffering in Houthi-held areas.

    For his part, the chairperson of Sam Organization for Rights and Liberties, Tawfik Al-Hamidi said that that testimonies gathered by the team of his organization reflected Houthis’ criminal mentality which indicates Houthis’ serious practices against women without taking into consideration the special protection that was established under the international and Yemeni law.

    Al-Hamidi stressed that the silence of the international community on the repeated calls regarding the status of rights and liberties in Yemen, particularly practices and violations against women, lead Houthis to commit persistent violations without regard to the international law under the implicit cover of the international community.

    In the following, some of the testimonies obtained by Sam’s team in Yemen which reflect some of the crimes committed by the Houthi forces and individuals affiliated with them:

    Sonia Saleh Ali Al-Ghabash, a human rights activist and chairperson of Raghm Al-Saeb organization WWD, fled from Yemen to Egypt after she had been released from a Houthi detention. She reported “I was arrested on March 6, 2019 and was imprisoned at the prison of the National Security Service. I was at a gas station in Hadda when Houthis surrounded the station with a number of military and armored vehicles and kidnapped me. I was detained for a week in the office of the deputy appointed by the Houthi militia. Then they took me to an unknown place after dawn. They placed me in a room measuring two by one meters that is called the “compressor” located underground and I remained there for four months. I was subjected to cruel torture as they removed my fingernails, skinned me using sharp instruments and they sprayed me with cold water. They tortured me using electrocution too and tied me up.” Sonia added in her testimony, “They interrogated me throughout the period of the detention and torture which continued for four months. They asked me about my job and dealing with political figures outside the country. I was also accused of collaborating with foreign forces and entreating people I we serve through our foundation so that we would benefit politically from them. The investigation time was always late at night. I was subjected to all kinds of violations. The investigation period was the hardest time in my life. I even wished to die in order to put me out of my misery. I heard the screams and cries of other women who were being tortured which increased my torture.”

    Sonia added, “There were women imprisoned secretly. No one knew who they were or what they were accused of. They were placed in pre-equipped cells which are isolated from women’s section. These cells had four rooms in the size range of 6 to 10 square meters.”

     Zaynab “pseudonym”

    Zaynab, aged 24, was arrested from her home on 18 August 2019 in the Capital Sana’a by officials of the Criminal Investigation. She said in her statement to Sam, “They presented a search warrant and raided the house where women and children were present. They intimidated the women and children while searching the house. They blindfolded me and took me to a place that I didn’t recognize and I never knew what I was charged with.”

    She added, “I was taken to the investigation which lasted throughout the night until the next morning. They used immoral methods during the investigation in addition to the unjustifiable brutality when dealing with me. They beat me on my face with their foreknowledge of my pregnancy. I was beaten with electrical cable too.”

    Zaynab confirmed “I was the only pregnant woman among the detainees, and yet they didn’t take into account my special circumstances. As a result of torture, I had hemorrhage in many times. I once vomited blood while being interrogated as a result of being beaten and electrocuted. The suffering I felt in prison affected my daughter (Mira) who was with me in prison and she is still in a state of a psychological shock. She still cries whenever she sees an officer. She was denied food, and she wasn’t given even bread.”

    She stated, “I still remember the man who tortured me the most. His name is (Ahmed Mater). He is in Taiz now. He used to assault and torture me from dusk until dawn. I tried to commit suicide. I thought death would be better than this torture. They treated me and threatened me by pointing a gun at my head to prevent me from talking about what happened to me in the prison. After that I was referred to the curt not knowing what my charge was. When I was taken to the judge, I didn’t speak in the fear that they would frame me any crime I didn’t commit. I was threatened by the investigators that I would have been accused of trafficking in hashish along with other crimes if I had talked about what I went through which made me to decide not to speak at all.”

    Zainab remembers that “prison was time was a period of constant fear, suffering, hunger and horror. Even sleep was frightening. My husband kept looking for me for months in all places of detention without telling him my whereabouts. Then they brought me his death certificate while being detained which resulted in the deterioration of my health and psychological condition. Even after my release from the Central Prison.”

    Ghada Mohammed Abdulrahman Al-Asi

    Ghada, a 20 year-old woman, says, “I was arrested on October 21, 2018 from my home in Sana’a at 7:00 pm. The way to arrest was horrible and horrific. It was similar to detective films. I was subjected to physical and psychological torture. They used weird methods and shameless practices and that is the least that can be said about life in Houthis’ prisons. We were dying every day until we felt numb. The female supervisors were cruel and had no mercy, just like monsters. There were a lot of detainees who were kidnapped from the markets, parks and public places. They tortured us with electricity, beating and slavery. Some were tortured to death. I have heard that there was a detainee who died while being tortured as men and women were practicing torture alternately.”

    Ghada says, “I lost everything because of the Houthi. I lost my family who disowned me and expelled me from home. I was forced to flee the country because I can’t live in I place where I don’t feel safe. I was accused of collaborating with the former regime as well as drug cases which led my family and tribe to expel me and wish my death.” Ghada also adds, “They put me on trial and I was sentenced to two years in jail. I was miraculously released from the secret detention on the 5Oth Street. Five men had been alternatively torturing us and they are: Abu Hussam, Hassan Batran, Sultan Zaben, as well as female guards and their names are Ftin, Taqia, Fardous along with others. They tortured us with electricity, beat us with wires, and prevented us from going to the bathroom. We were also denied clothes and blankets in the dead of winter. We were held in solitary confinements too. I was beaten in various parts of my body by a huge number of men in the investigation room.” As to the prison services, Ghada states, “There were no basic necessities of life in prison. Even the food was so bad. We lived on one meal a day for months. We were allowed to go to the bathroom only once a day. Sometimes, we were not allowed to use the bathroom in addition to denial of medical treatment and medical review.”

    Fawzia Ahmed Ali Al-Mahwiti, a former prison section head.

    Fawzia Al-Mahwiti, who worked previously as a head of a prison section for many years, stated “After the Houthi’s coup against the legitimate government, I remained in my job but only on paper since my prerogatives were removed as the Houthi forces tend to ban everything in prison including phone calls, food, medical services and even sheets and mattresses. It got to a point that they blackmailed mothers of the children by preventing them from getting their babies’ formula and sanitary pads as well as practicing torture and inhuman treatment by the wardens.”

    Fawzia states in her statement, “Once the prison guards took my picture while I was giving some prisoners baby formula and sanitary pads. They told the prison director who scolded and threatened me in case I went anywhere near the women’s quarters. I told him there were starving children. I was brought to investigation in the presence of the Commissioner of Prisons and the Deputy Minister of the Interior. I was threatened until some officials mediated. However, they asked me to spy on the inmates and I was put in their cells. They threatened to hurt my children who were at school.  I was accused of selling the drugs, among other charges. I remained in prison for three weeks. After that, I was released. I resigned but they denied my resignation until I train other female jailors there.” She indicates, “I trained the female jailors for two weeks. Then I was released. Six days later, they sent military vehicles to arrest me without my knowledge as one of my colleagues told me that there was a force coming to arrest me. I immediately went to take my kids from school and escaped. I didn’t go back ever since. I have heard they charged me with leaking State secrets, involving in bombing incidents, and shielding the female inmates. I don’t even think to go back after all the scourge of torture and oppression I had seen.”

    As to the Houthis’ practice in prison, Fawzia says, “the mental torture inflicted on the prisoners by the Houthi in prison is unimaginable.” As she stated, “There were various torture methods including tying up the prisoners’ hands to the ceiling and forcing the inmates to stand on a can of baked beans till their feet cracked. They also forced the prisoners to wake up at 3:00 am. In addition to forcing them to attend Houthis’ religious sessions in order to indoctrinate them into the Houthi religious and cultural ideas.” She adds, “They confiscated the babies’ formula and diapers belonging to the prisoners’ babies. They adopted the policy of starvation to pressure the inmates without regards to the children’s constant crying.”

    The victims who stated to Sam all concur in their testimony that security officers, officials of the Ministry of Interior and Prison Service and the Zaynabiat took turns to detain and torture the female prisoners either in the Central prison or in prison that is referred to as “Al-Dar”. “Sam” will elaborate all the details in a comprehensive report that will be issued soon.

    “SAM” stresses that what was stated in the previous testimonies has demonstrated beyond doubt Houthi forces and elements’ excessive use of force and unjustified torture which is incriminated by several international treaties and laws such as the Rome Status of the International Criminal Law as it considers methods of torture, beating and deprivation among the acts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These practices also contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which all insure the set of basic rights such as the right to life, the right to adequate standard of living, the criminalization of detention without legal reasons, prohibition of torture and other rights which are violated by the Houthi forces against women and Yemeni civilians.

    At the end of its statement, “Sam” calls the international community in general and the Security Council in particular for taking action to stop the series of crimes against the Yemeni civilians, particularly women and children, and sending truth and investigation commissions in order to monitor the secret and regular prisons run by Houthis and to work on closing down these prisons and to bring the perpetrators of the violations to trail for their crimes against the international law.



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