Geneva - SAM for rights and Liberties said that the government authorities of Yemen must hold the military and security leaders of Taiz city accountable for insecurity, and hold accountable all perpetrators of crimes against the Al-Harq family and seek to restore safety to this family and other property owners who have been repeatedly violated. It also calls for the opening of a transparent and comprehensive investigation into all forms of abuse and criminality committed against Al -Hraq family and all crimes committed during the past days, including extrajudicial killings, vandalism and looting of private and public properties.
In a statement published on Sunday, the organization reiterated its demands that the cover for armed gangs and outlaws should be lifted and the need for security and military agencies to uphold their duty to enforce the law and to deter those powerful individuals who are affiliated with military, civil and security institutions that worry about the general peace and terrify the lives of the population.
SAM stated that burglaries of homes and land belonging to civilians by military and civilian officials in Taiz were disturbing as SAM spotted numerous incidents of burglary and looting, which were a sign of the beginning of heinous crimes related to extrajudicial killings and assault. This incident was not the first one, as most of the previous incidents had been covered by some government leaders in "arbitrary" ways and methods of reconciliation that did not satisfy the victims, but which they accepted as a matter of fact, which encouraged those powerful people to violate rights of the population. Media outlets and local activists have reported on the looting of dozens of houses and lands allocated for building by those who are powerful and have been involved in the military over the past three years.
The organization indicated that the events escalated on the evening of Tuesday, 10 August 2021, when three family members "Muhammad Ali Al-Haraq" Issam, Khalid and Abdo were killed , and Akram Ahmed Al-Harq was wounded next to their homes in the area of Bir Basha, during a robbery on their land by the commander of a military battalion in the 145th Brigade, Taiz, named Majid Al-Aaraj and his gunmen. Al-Aaraj and one of his escorts were killed minutes after his crime.
SAM listened to a relative of Al- Harq family, explaining to SAM the details of what happened that night, where she said. "At: 2 p.m., Majid Al-Araj came to a piece of land belongs to Al- Harq family, and he started shooting into the air, and he said," This land is mine, Stop the work. Khaled Al-Harq “The owner of the land " responded: No Majed don't start a problem, this land is mine, and it's been ours for almost 100 years, so if you have any right go to the court. "She adds”, Majid left the place, and then Khalid called his brothers and told them what happened between him and Majid al-Araj ." Khaled's brothers came to the vicinity of the land, and soon after Majid Al-Aaraj came with three gunmen and, when they arrived, they started shooting. They killed Essam Muhammad Al-Harq, and they continued to shoot and even killed Abdo Al-Harq, who was an elderly person, and then Khaled Al-Harq shot back and killed Majid Al-Aaraj. And then Al-Aaraj gunmen hit Akram Al-Harq, and they banned Akram's ambulance. Majid Alaraj gunmen came on pickups and killed Khalid Al-Harq. "
An hour later, more than 20 armed men and military vehicles following that military command came next to the homes of Al -Harq family. They broke into three houses. They also broke a number of doors, threw bombs into them, looted expensive small contents as well as family money and papers, accompanied by a threat to women and children gathered in Khalid Al-Harq house which was considered safe compared to the situation of other houses as they were shot by Al-Araj gunmen. They used medium and light weapons, and when they wanted to break into Khaled's house, the women from inside shouted: We are all women .One of the gunmen said, threw the bomb, kill them all which they did and the women were screaming. Then they broke into the house. They beat, insulted and verbally assaulted the women. Two children were kidnapped at the time and they are: Madyan Essam Mohamed Al-Harq 12 years old and Shuaib Essam Mohamed Al-Harq 10 years old.
Although many people interviewed by SAM contacted with the security services to save the family and get the gunmen out of Al- Harq family homes, they didn't move or take an action, knowing that the police headquarters were a few metres away from the location. The testimony confirmed that recruits on a security pickups following this security unit came to the scene and saw the gunmen messing with Al-Haq houses and didn't do anything. There have been accusations by victims in the family of the support of this security unit for those armed men. According to one of Al-Harq daughter’s testimony to SAM, "On the morning of the second day, 11 August, gunmen belonging to the official Alaraj came. They broke into a number of neighbourhood houses, searched them for the men and youth of the Al- Harq family and kidnapped the young Issa Abdu Al- Harq, who was hiding in a house." And after he was identified by the neighbourhood leader, the gunman shot him and he was injured and then moved to a special jail in a building in “Sad Aljabalain" where the military commander Alaraj and his military battalion reside. He was executed inside the prison. Then his body was taken to the Main road and thrown next to a hospital called Al-Karama Hospital."
The organization emphasizes that the Al Harq family has been violated by dozens of militants belonging to Alaraj. To the extent of threatening the women and children of that family, searching for its young people and men who have been able to flee their homes for fear of their lives. They also prevented the women of that family from visiting the bodies of the victims in the mortuary of Al Thowra Government Hospital in the city until a security force on Saturday morning, 14 August, was able to transport those women under the protection of vehicles and recruits to al-Thawra Hospital mortuary and enabling them to see their dead bodies.
SAM moved into the homes of those families, witnessed them and witnessed the scale of the devastation caused by the gunmen in the homes and their belongings. It heard the testimonies of women from that family and the testimonies of others in that neighbourhood. Those women had conveyed their fears for their fate and the fate of their people who fled the scourge. The women of that family had appealed to the Yemeni Government to move them and their family members to a safe place as they don’t feel safe in the city of Taiz anymore.
On the morning of Saturday, 14 August, in the vicinity of the family's homes, dozens of activists and residents gathered in solidarity with the family and called on the Yemeni Government to use its powers to provide safety for the family, to hold government leaders accountable, and to bring perpetrators of family abuse to justice.
SAM pointed out that in the city of Taiz, the crimes of property robbery, the murders and the subsequent vendettas against vulnerable parties while facing the gangs of influence, outlaws and those backed by the security forces are repeated, with no punishment for the perpetrators. Impunity and the spread of armed manifestations have become extremely dangerous for the inhabitants of this city, which requires the military and security forces to purify their military ranks from the corrupted elements and to strictly enforce the military law on their recruits. Furthermore, the local authorities are obliged to initiate effective procedures to extract private property from those who looted it and return it to its true owners.
For his part, the head of SAM Tawfiq Al-Hamidi said in his response to the recent incident, "Civilians must feel safe and the women and children of Al-Harq family must be returned to their homes and feel safe for their lives after being persecuted." He added that "the crimes committed against the population by the powerful individuals and gangs that are powered and backed by some of the individuals affiliated with the military institution requires that all those involved in the military and security leadership be held accountable. The grave and heinous violations of the rights of this family in recent days are further evidence of the gravity of the security situation in Taiz. The law shall apply to anyone who is found to be an accomplice to all the crimes committed or at least complicit with those who committed the crimes. "
Mr .Al-Hamidi stated at the end of the statement that "What has happened calls for a serious action by the Yemeni Government to give the security file the highest priority. The evidence of violating the principles of human rights has become crystal clear
- By some military and security leadership - the climate of impunity has become the prevailing practice in this city, and the feeling of safety is largely absent among the population."
It is noted here that the Deputy Chairman of the Security Committee, Taiz Axis Commander General Khaled Fadel, together with the Director General of Police of the government, Brigadier General Mansour Al - Akhali, met the Al-Harq family who were attacked by an armed group.
Affirming that the security agencies continue to prosecute and seize the remaining persons involved in the incident and to hand them over to the courts to receive their deterrent punishment, while the Director General of Police of Taiz Governorate, Brigadier General Mansour Abdulrab al-Akhali, issued an administrative decision this morning, No. 5, which provided for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the events in Bir Bacha on 10 August 2021. The Director-General of Police also issued a decree No. 6 for the current year, which provided for the suspension of Lieutenant Amr Kubel Salah and his referral for investigation. In addition, he issued Administrative Order No. 7, which ordered the arrest of the Commander of the Special Security Forces Branch, Brigadier General Jamil Akalan, and the assignment of the Branch's General Staff to his work until the end of the investigation.
SAM stresses that the successive crimes committed against the Al - Harq family are extremely egregious and seriously violate many international instruments and conventions. This indicates that all military, security and civilian leaders must be held accountable in Taiz who have been unable to provide protection to the family, in addition to their inability to arrest the perpetrators.
SAM concluded by calling on the security authorities not only to take administrative decisions, but also to ensure the safety of Al - Harq family and to compensate it for all the psychological and material damage it has suffered from. SAM also called on the Department of Public Prosecutions to take serious and urgent action, to investigate all crimes committed against that family and to bring all perpetrators, participants and their accomplices to justice in preparation for executing the deterrent penalties for them.