Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties called on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to publish all lists of the forcibly disappeared and to show the data records related to this matter in order to identify the victims of enforced disappearance. The organization stressed the need for the international community and the United Nations General Assembly to shoulder their responsibilities regarding the investigation of secret prison networks established by the parties to the conflict, especially the Houthi group and the UAE, and to identify violations that occur there, and hold those responsible to account.
The organization said in a statement issued today, Tuesday, in conjunction with the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, which falls on August 30 of every year that this day comes to remind the world of the suffering of the forcibly disappeared who, since the first moment of their disappearance, have been subjected to unacceptable violations, including restricting their freedom without legal justification, not disclosing their places of detention and reasons for arrest, in addition to secret trials and prisons, indicating that that the parties to the conflict in Yemen are accused of complex violations in this file.
The organization stated that, despite the dozens of statements and testimonies it collected about the forcibly disappeared, it was not able to reach an accurate number of victims of enforced disappearance in Yemen due to the lack of a national mechanism to refer to in this regard, in addition to the security grip that raises terror and fear among many people who are afraid to speak to the organization’s team.
“SAM” referred in its current statement to the figures it documented in a report it issued last year, entitled "The Long Absence", which covered about 6 years of violations due to enforced disappearance. It pointed out that the Houthi group “Ansar Allah” ranked first among the parties to the conflict in the number of enforced disappearance crimes, with 904 cases of arbitrary detention, 353 practices of enforced disappearance, and 138 practices of torture, including 27 deaths in place of detention. On the other hand, the internationally recognized Yemeni government is responsible for 282 arbitrary or abusive detentions, 90 enforced disappearances, and 65 torture practices, including 14 deaths in detention. The UAE forces and UAE-affiliated armed groups are responsible for 419 cases of arbitrary detention, 327 cases of enforced disappearance, and 141 cases of torture, including 25 deaths in the place of detention as the UAE deals with forcibly disappeared Yemeni civilians as if they were an outlaw group. The UAE practices kidnapping and enforced disappearance without regard to humanitarian values, international laws or the sovereignty of the Yemeni state.
The organization drew attention in its statement to secret and private prisons established by the various parties to the conflict, especially the Houthi group and the Transitional Council, as the Houthi group built several prisons, most notably the "al-Saleh Detention Center", which is one of the most prominent and most dangerous private prisons owned by the Houthi militia in Yemen. This prison was established during the Houthi control over large parts of Taiz Governorate, and the governorates of Aden, Lahj, Abyan and Al Dhale’e in early 2015 as the Houthis designated some of its buildings to detain and torture people, and it is one of a number of private prisons established by the Houthi militia in different regions in Yemen. According to "SAM" sources, the Houthis have allocated about (20) buildings in the city as prisons and administrations for those prisons. Al-Saleh prison is a complex of a number of prisons. According to private sources obtained by "SAM" from insiders of the prison and who frequent it on work visits, the prison consists of (5) main sections, the most prominent of which is the military prison. This prison contains, according to the testimonies of the victims, a number of prisons which are the “Dwaesh” prison, the “Reception” prison, the “Criminal” prison, the “Mujahdeen” prison, which is intended for the perpetrators of violations among their followers, the "Al-Mashaikh" prison, which is intended for the mentally ill, the "Abu Harb" prison, and the "Aden" prison, which was intended for detainees from the southern governorates.
“SAM” Organization for Rights and Liberties has verified the crimes of enforced disappearance in the areas affiliated with the legitimate government, which are actually under the control of the UAE- supervised and Funded Transitional Council. In May 2017, "SAM" issued a statement that included the disclosure of 18 secret prisons established by the UAE in Hadramawt and Aden, in addition to prisons in the "Balhaf" facility in Shabwa governorate, where the UAE is responsible for the forced disappearance of civilians opposed to it under the pretext of counter terrorism. Furthermore, the UAE has established a militia that owes allegiance to it and it has the authority to appoint its leadership and provides it with financial and military support, in Aden, Hadramawt and Shabwa, under the name of the “Security Belt” in “Aden, Lahj and Abyan,” as well as the “Shabwani Elite” in Shabwa Governorate, and the “Hadrami Elite” in Hadramawt.
In a related context, "SAM" indicated that dozens of people communicated with its team through complaints they submitted. These complaints included individuals affiliated with the "legitimate government" violating the rights and arresting and forcibly disappearing dozens of people without legal justification. The information we collected proved that armed elements affiliated with the "legitimacy" in more than one area repeatedly kidnapped people without legal justification, attacked the sanctity of the home, and deliberately terrorized civilians in the late hours of the night.
On the other hand, the information received by “SAM” showed the involvement of the Saudi authorities in many incidents of enforced disappearance, including the kidnapping of the citizen, “Ammar Yasser Idris,” 26, on October 12, 2020, while he was in a hotel in Sayun as one of the people close to the kidnapper reported to “SAM” that, “He was arrested by an unknown military force. They took him from the hotel, after they called him from the reception and told him that there were people who wanted to meet him. When he got down, the force kidnapped him.” He added, “He contacted us by phone about 4 months ago and informed us that he is detained in Dhahban Prison in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia without knowing the charges against him.”
"SAM" reviewed in its current statement some of the names of the leaders of the Houthi group and the Transitional Council who have a long record of committing the crime of enforced disappearance against Yemenis where “SAM” confirmed the involvement of the following names from the Houthi group, and they are: (Abdul-Hakim Al-Khaiwani, Ali Abu-Al-Hakim, Sultan Zabin, Mutlaq Al-Makni, Abdul-Qader Al-Shami). As for the rest of the parties to the conflict, “SAM” got the names of: (Mujahid Al-Otaibi, commander of the Coalition Forces in Aden, Shalal Shaye, Mohsen Al-Wali, commander-in-chief of the Support Forces in Aden, Yasran Al-Maqtari, commander of the counter-terrorism forces, Jalal Al-Rubaie, commander of the Security Belt Forces in Aden, Ali Al-Marri, director of the notorious al-Teen prison, Samed Sanah, commander of the Emergency Battalion and Security Support) and other names verified by the organization whose involvement in enforced disappearance, systematic torture and other dangerous practices was confirmed to the organization through exclusive testimonies collected by “SAM”
The organization emphasizes that these mentioned examples are a small part of a large set of testimonies and information it receives on a daily basis about the violations of the various parties to the conflict, which collectively constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the classification of the Rome Statute that constitutes the International Criminal Court.
The organization noted that some of those responsible for the crime of disappearance became part of the Transitional Presidential Leadership Council formed on April 7 since they are responsible for the forces that committed the crime of enforced disappearance and supervised illegal prisons, in Aden, the western coast, Hadramawt and Marib. Therefore, they must, on the basis of their officials and positions, work to solve this file and reveal the fate of the forcibly disappeared as the enforced disappearance is an imprescriptible crime and requires the opening of a serious investigation against those involved.
The organization stressed that what the various parties to the conflict are doing violates the legal rules stipulated in the Yemeni constitution and international law in a blatant and unjustified manner, which portends a serious attack that requires your urgent action to stop these practices.
The organization stipulates that the procedures for summoning and arresting people must pass through several legal stages in order to meet the conditions required by the Yemeni constitution and international law. However, what was observed by the organization through the complaints submitted to it showed that the parties to the conflict did not follow the legal procedures to arrest people and put them inside prisons on specific charges.
The organization pointed out that the detention of Yemeni citizens without any charges being brought or the initiation of legal procedures based on actual reasons constitutes an act of kidnapping outside the framework of the law which holds these authorities fully legally responsible for the lives of these people and their responsibility to take all steps to ensure the release of people who have not been proven to have any charges, to try people in accordance with the rules of Yemeni law, and to punish people who are proven to be involved in legal violations after they are brought to fair trials and allow them fully present their defences.
The organization concluded its statement by calling upon all parties to the conflict to publish complete lists of the forcibly disappeared and secret prisons and work to release them without conditions, stressing that the international community is required to play a more effective role in this file in order to end a long era of the forced disappearance, which included torture, persecution and deprivation of rights.