Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties called on the international community to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes of torture from the parties to the conflict in order to bring them to trial. The human rights organization stressed that the continued international silence towards the repeated violations constitutes an implicit cover for those parties to continue their crimes against civilians.
The organization said in its statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which falls on June 26 of each year, that this day came while thousands of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons in Yemen were subjected to multiple and cruel types of psychological and physical torture in the prisons of the Houthi group, the illegal prisons supervised by UAE-backed forces in southern Yemen and the Saudi forces, the prisons of the legitimate government in Marib and the prisons of the armed groups. In addition, these people languish in prisons that lack the most basic legal and humane conditions, and they do not receive the basic needs of food, clothing, or medicine.
SAM pointed out in its statement that many detention centers became dark marks in the history of torture in Yemen, as there were dozens of illegal and secret detention centers devoted to enforced disappearance and the practice of systematic and cruel torture, including the prisons of the Houthi militia such as the prisons of the Political Security, National Security, Al-Amriya Castle in Rada’a, the Corniche Castle in Hodeidah, Al-Saleh detention center in Taiz, the UAE-affiliated prisons such as the prisons of Bir Ahmed, Waddah Hall and the Coalition in Aden, the former Al-Rayyan airport in Hadramout, Al-Tin prison in Seiyun, Azzan and Balhaf, and the Yemeni government- affiliated prisons such as the Institute detention center in the city of Marib, in addition to the prisons of other armed groups. These prisons witness the most gross violations, where various types of torture, leading in some cases to death, are practiced against arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared persons.
The organization emphasized that the crime of torture has become a dangerous practice in Yemen, which both victims and their families fear. Over the years of the war, SAM monitored and documented horrific cases of torture, revealed the methods of torture used by various parties, and issued statements and reports that revealed these practices.
SAM statistics showed that the number of civilians killed under torture during these years exceeded (200) cases, including (56) detainees who died under torture in 2018. While the organization recorded the death of (53) detainees under torture in 2017 and the death of 70 detainees due to torture in 2016.
SAM confirms that torture has become a daily practice in most of the illegal prisons of the parties to the conflict, and the testimonies it documented confirm that most of those detained have been subjected to severe torture and ill-treatment, whether individually or collectively, sometimes to the point of death.
The methods of torture documented by the organization included kicking, beating with batons, iron rods, burning, deprivation of food and water, mock executions, hanging for long hours, sexual harassment, use of sniffer dogs, burial in sand pits, use of stimulant drugs, spraying with cold water, denial of visitation and mock trials.
Additionally, the organization monitored cases of torture of women in the prisons of the Houthi militia in the capital, Sana’a, where women are subjected to immoral methods and horrendous physical and psychological torture. These methods include depriving them of the sun, depriving them of using toilets except once or twice a day, prolonged interrogation late at night, electrocution, beatings with sticks or batons, cold water spraying, beatings in the face, and denailing, in addition to the psychological torture that was practiced on them.
The human rights organization also confirmed its monitoring of increasing cases of torture in Saudi prisons or by forces and groups loyal to Saudi Arabia in both the governorates of Al-Mahra and Hadramout, in addition to prisons in the southern border brigades and Saudi intelligence prisons in the regions of Jizan and Najran. SAM also confirmed it would release a detailed report on the torture suffered by Yemenis, which in some cases led to death.
SAM indicated that the policy of impunity, corruption and weakness of judicial institutions have contributed greatly to the spread of illegal prisons, for many of those involved in torture have been holed up behind executive leadership positions, which protect them from being held accountable, whereas some also tend to hide behind unknown titles and nicknames in anticipation of any future legal accountability.
SAM noted that thousands of victims and their families need direct medical, psychological, humanitarian, social and legal assistance. Therefore, SAM organization proposes the establishment of an independent commission for the affairs of detainees, the forcibly disappeared, and victims of torture, which works to provide material, psychological and legal support to victims of torture in prisons and their families.
It is noteworthy here that the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture in (Article 1, Paragraph 1), as, “ any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, 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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
The organization stresses that torture is a crime under international law and completely prohibited in accordance with all relevant instruments. It cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, in the sense that it binds every member of the international community, regardless of whether or not the state has ratified international treaties that explicitly prohibit torture. It also emphasized that the practice of torture on a regular and widespread basis is considered a crime against humanity.
For its part, the organization stressed the need for the Special Rapporteur on torture to open a serious investigation into crimes of torture in Yemen and to ensure that appropriate penalties are imposed against those responsible. It also called upon the UN envoy to exert pressure to move the file of detainees in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement. Furthermore, SAM confirmed that that it’s in contact with the investigation committees on Yemen to include the violators in the indictment lists.
SAM called in its statement for the need to blacklist all perpetrators of crimes of torture from all sides in Yemen, and to bring them to the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity based on the Rome International Charter.
The organization also called on all parties to abide by international laws and covenants and to spare civilians unprovoked violations committed by the parties to the conflict, and the need for the international community, especially the Security Council and the United Nations, to assume their legal and moral responsibilities towards protecting the rights of individuals in the country.