Sam Organization for Rights and Liberties stated that the citizen "Saddam Hassan Al-Sulaimani" died on September 6, 2023, inside a secret prison located at Ataq Airport, one week after being abducted by the Second Brigade of Shabwah Defense Forces, supported by the United Arab Emirates. The organization confirms that this condemnable incident constitutes a serious violation of international laws and standards. It calls upon the local authorities to respond to the demands of the victim's family and establish an investigative committee to bring those involved in the crime to justice.
A clarifying statement issued by the elders and dignitaries of the Al-Salman Al-Awaliq tribe regarding the killing of their son, Saddam Hassan Majrub Al-Salman, on Saturday, states that Saddam Hassan Mohammed Aqil, 34 years old, was arrested on August 29 while playing football in his village, Al-Karmoum, Al-Suliman village in the Ataq district. He was apprehended by two armored vehicles and three armed military vehicles belonging to the Shabwah Defense Forces. The soldiers proceeded to beat him with rifle butts on the back of his head until he lost consciousness. He was then detained in one of the armored vehicles before being transferred to an illegal prison at Ataq Airport. They also raided Saddam's house and conducted a search without any legal justification. According to a statement issued by the victim's tribe, Saddam did not suffer from any illnesses, had no criminal suspicions, and worked as a shepherd in his village. The tribe's statement further mentioned their attempts to follow up on his case at Ataq Airport and visit him to learn the reasons for his arrest but received no cooperation from the Shabwah Defense Forces. They were shocked to learn about his death on the evening of Wednesday, September 6.
The brother of the victim, Saddam, told "Sam," "On Wednesday, which was the day after my brother's arrest, I went to the airport gate to find out where my brother was and the reason for his arrest. Unfortunately, I didn't know anyone there, and the military personnel asked me for an entry permit. I couldn't find anyone to help me get inside, so I returned home. In the evening, I received a call from the operations of the Second Brigade of Shabwah Defense Forces, and they said, 'You are Saddam's brother,' and I replied, 'Yes.'"
They told me to come tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. to the entrance of Al-Nasr Camp to meet with the leadership and clarify why Saddam was arrested. I went on Thursday at the specified time and they allowed me into the camp after confiscating my mobile phone. I met with Saleh Al-Dhaib Al-Khalifi and the vehicles and crews in which Saddam was arrested were ready. He said, "Your brother Saddam has hidden things in the house, and you must help us and hand them over to us." I told him that I had no knowledge of anything they mentioned. He then said, "Now we will go to the house, and you will come with us, and we will retrieve these items that belong to Saddam." I told them, "Yes, we will go to the house, and take anything you find."
He added, "We walked to the house, and they entered all the rooms, thoroughly searching our personal belongings and the victim's belongings. They forcefully broke into some locked rooms. They found nothing and then proceeded to search the sheep pens, inspecting the animal feed and even digging into the ground, but they found nothing. Afterwards, we went to the airport, where I was detained with the prisoners from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. The leadership summoned me, and I found Saleh Al-Dhaib Al-Khalifi and Majid Al-Marwq Al-Nasi present. They asked me, 'Where are the hidden items with Saddam?' I told them that I had no knowledge of anything. They insisted and conducted a thorough search of the house and its surroundings. They claimed that Saddam's wife knew where they were hidden, but I told them that when they searched the house, they sent me four times to ask her, and her response was that she knew nothing."
According to a statement issued by the Second Brigade of Shabwah Defense Forces, which is considered an "unauthorized force," they attempted to deny responsibility for the killing of Saddam. They claimed that Saddam was a hidden member of Al-Qaeda and that his arrest was based on information provided by individuals who had been detained. They further stated that they took him into custody for questioning, and he confessed to his affiliation with Al-Qaeda. The statement mentioned that on September 4, he was transferred to the organization's hospital in the city of Ataq due to abdominal pain. Upon arrival at the hospital, medical tests revealed that he suffered from chronic illnesses, including kidney failure and weak heart muscle. He remained in the hospital until his health deteriorated, and he was transferred to the intensive care unit, where he passed away on the evening of Wednesday, September 6, 2023, according to the forces' statement.
However, the victim's brother provides information to SAM organization. They told me to take my phone and call Saddam's wife and tell her that I met Saddam and he is in perfect health and doing well. They say that the hidden items are with you and that you should hand them over to me, and I will deliver them to the defense forces. I took my phone and called my brother's wife, informing her of what they told me, with the external speaker open, and they were listening to her response. I don't have anything for Saddam, and I don't know of anything hidden with him. When they heard this, they told me to go home and come back with my brother's wife and help them retrieve the hidden items. They said they would help us in getting Saddam out. I told them that I want to meet my brother and hear him say, "Mohammed, I have hidden items in such a place," and when Saddam informs me of the location, I am ready to bring them to you. They rejected my request and told me that Saddam would call me personally and inform me of the whereabouts of the hidden items, and I should bring them to them. I agreed and gave them my phone number, but they never called me. Until we received the news of the martyr's death. May Allah have mercy on him."
The Shabwah Defense Forces were established in 2022 following the conflict over the capital city of Shabwah Governorate, Ataq, between the forces of the legitimate government, including the Special Forces, and the Transitional Council forces loyal to the United Arab Emirates, led by the Al-Amaliqa Brigade. These forces are considered successors to what was known as the "Shabwani Elite" forces and receive significant support from the United Arab Emirates. They operate as proxy forces, functioning without legal authorization, as a de facto power. There has been no official decision issued by entities such as the Yemeni Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Defense, which puts their actions outside the scope of judicial oversight, constitutional and legal legitimacy. Nevertheless, they are not exempt from responsibility for the violations they commit against international law and international humanitarian law in their controlled area.
The Shabwani Elite Forces, which have now transformed into the Shabwah Defense Forces, managed unofficial "secret" prisons in the Martyrs Brigade Camp in Ataq and in the Hawtah Camp, according to a report by a prominent expert team in 2018. There is also a detention facility in the Seiyun-One Camp located near Azan. The Martyrs Brigade Camp serves as the headquarters of the Shabwani Elite, while the Hawtah Camp is their detention center in the southeastern areas of Shabwah. Furthermore, there is also a detention facility in the coalition base in Balhaf, which is controlled by the United Arab Emirates. The report added that detainees who were transferred there disappeared for long periods of time, ranging from a year and a half to two years, isolated from the outside world, without any formal charges or legal procedures. Among the detainees were those who openly criticized the United Arab Emirates and the Southern Transitional Council. The detainees were subjected to torture both inside and outside the Shabwani Elite camps, including being beaten with cables and guns, burned, and in both cases, some detainees died as a result of torture, while others sustained serious injuries during their detention.
In a previous date in 2020, investigative journalism revealed the existence of a secret prison network at the site of the French company Total, serving as a transit point for detainees being transferred from another secret prison in Al-Mukalla, eastern Yemen. These two prisons are part of a larger network of secret prisons managed by the United Arab Emirates. The report further stated that the civilian site in Balhaf, managed by a French company, has now become a "military base for Emiratis, with weapons and logistical means," according to a source in the Yemeni government. Additionally, French parliament member Clementine Autain accused her country's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly of lying by denying any knowledge of the Yemeni gas site in Balhaf, operated by French company Total, and used by the UAE as a secret detention facility where torture and extrajudicial executions take place. In light of this, the organization MENAA, based in Geneva, announced in February that it would file a complaint with the Court of Justice in Paris, alleging that two individuals had been subjected to secret detention and torture by UAE forces at the Balhaf gas complex in the Shabwah Governorate.
According to testimonies from residents of Shabwah provided to the SAM organization, it appears that the pace of unlawful raids and arrests has returned to Shabwah under various pretexts. The existence of unofficial "secret" prisons continues to raise concerns among the citizens. The armed factions operating under the name of "Shabwah Defense" are acting outside the law and beyond the jurisdiction of the judicial system. They have assumed functions that fall under the authority of the Yemeni Ministry of Interior, specifically related to counterterrorism efforts. The Ministry of Interior has not yet issued any statement regarding the events committed by these armed factions in Shabwah.
The armed factions operating de facto in southern Yemen and outside the law pose a serious challenge to human rights in Yemen. These factions, funded by the United Arab Emirates, primarily operate in Aden, Shabwah, and the western coast. They utilize a network of unofficial "secret" detention facilities and places of confinement to hide individuals and engage in torture. They also carry out arbitrary arrests and nighttime raids. These factions operate within their controlled areas, far from judicial oversight, and sometimes challenge the judicial authority in a context of weakness and political conflict among the internationally recognized government parties.
SAM believes that based on its review of the sequence of events and confirmation from the relatives of the deceased "Saddam" regarding his good physical condition and the unjustifiable circumstances of his arrest, there are suspicions surrounding the involvement of the Shabwah Defense Forces' "Second Brigade" in his killing. SAM emphasizes that the medical autopsy will reveal the complete truth about the circumstances of the killing of "Suleimani" and the party responsible for his death.
The organization further commented on the incident, affirming that the entire incident constitutes a violation of legal principles. It pointed out that the procedures for apprehending and imprisoning individuals should go through several legal stages to meet the requirements of the Yemeni constitution and international law. This is in contrast to what happened with "Saddam," where non-legal forces abducted him without presenting a legal order or a summons issued by the sole judicial authority authorized to do so, which is the Public Prosecution. They also held him in a secret prison, which is a serious violation of the safeguards for the protection of the accused. Furthermore, his family was deprived of visiting him and knowing the details of the incident until his death under mysterious circumstances. This indicates that several serious violations occurred from the moment of his abduction until the announcement of his death.
SAM emphasizes that the justifications presented by those forces in their statement are an attempt to absolve themselves of the legal responsibility that falls upon them. These forces have led to the death of an innocent civilian who had no guilt except for being caught in the ongoing conflict and security chaos. They have installed armed militias as instruments for law enforcement, while these forces themselves are implementing political agendas that disregard the rights and dignity of citizens.
The organization concluded its statement by calling upon the Governor of Shabwah Governorate, the leadership of the Shabwah Defense Forces' "Second Brigade," and the United Arab Emirates to take full responsibility for the incident of killing the citizen "Saddam Al-Suleimani." It emphasized that the executive authorities in the governorate are obligated to issue a public statement clarifying their position on the crime. Furthermore, these entities are required to hand over the individuals involved to the relevant judicial authorities. SAM stressed that the policy of impunity and turning a blind eye to crimes against citizens is what drives these unlawful forces and entities to persist in their severe violations and crimes against individuals.