Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that the parties to the conflict in Yemen had arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared hundreds of people throughout the conflict. As a result, this file poses a complex dilemma, especially for their families who have struggled for years to reveal the fate of their relatives. The organization stressed the need for the international community and the United Nations General Assembly to assume their responsibilities regarding the investigation of this complex violation, its serious dimensions, and pressure on all parties to the conflict to reveal the fate of those forcibly disappeared from the beginning of the conflict at the end of 2014, and to end this file once and for all.
SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties documented in its report "The Long Absence" - issued in August 2021 - 270 cases of enforced disappearance by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. These include 186 cases of enforced disappearance by the Houthi group "Ansar Allah", and more than 44 cases of enforced disappearance by the forces of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council, and more than 11 cases committed by the legitimate forces. Meanwhile, the forces of the so-called national resistance led by a member of the Presidential Leadership Council, Brigadier General Tariq Saleh, committed 6 cases of enforced disappearance, and 18 cases in which the Saudi forces are accused, as the disappeared were forcibly transferred to prisons inside Saudi territory or were disappeared in Yemeni prisons.
“There are more than 200 forcibly disappeared persons by the parties to the conflict, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There is not much information available about them since their detention and enforced disappearance, and their families suffer because of the lack of information and their inability to check on them. Unfortunately, this file is never discussed during the prisoner swap negotiations, and there is no party to represent these forcibly disappeared individuals. Therefore, the UN envoy should pay special attention to this file, and the parties to the conflict should provide information regarding the disappeared as a legal and moral right.” Said Tawfik Al-Hamidi, President of SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties.
Since the fall of the capital, Sana'a, to the Houthi group in September 2014, the group has committed widespread violations against political opponents, especially members of the Islah party. After the intervention of the Saudi-Led Arab Coalition in the Yemeni conflict at the request of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to support the internationally recognized government, this coalition practiced widespread violations of human rights, especially its member the UAE, through the armed groups it established in southern Yemen and in illegal prisons and detention centers. It also practiced arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearance.
According to previous testimonies documented by the organization of former victims who were subjected to arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance, the parties to the conflict used excessive force during arrests, in addition to day and night raids. They also transferred the detainees to unknown places where they practiced all kinds of cruel torture, such as beatings all over the body, electric shocks, mock executions, and psychological torture with false news about family and relatives.
According to former detainees and human rights reports, the parties to the conflict have established a network of illegal secret prisons, to which detainees have been arbitrarily transferred in Taiz, Hadramout, Aden, Sana'a, Marib, and others outside Yemen. On May 22, 2017, SAM organization disclosed for the first time eight secret prisons run by the UAE in the cities of Aden and Hadramout in Yemen. On September 7, 2017, SAM issued another statement about more than 180 illegal prisons run by the Houthi group, some of which are still there today. The group used to transfer detainees to them between 2015 and 2018. In the report entitled "the Long Absence", one of the detainees confirmed that he was transferred from a prison in the city of Aden to Assab prison outside Yemen on a helicopter by Emirati force. Media outlets reported the return of the forcibly disappeared Awad Abdul-Habib and his son Ghassan via an Emirati plane to the UAE-controlled Al-Rayyan Airport, and part of this airport was turned into a detention center for dissidents.
Jamal Al-Awbthani from Hadramawt governorate told SAM his son, Taha Jamal Al-Awbthani, 22 years old, had been forcibly disappeared since June 09, 2022 by the authorities in Hadramout. The abductee's father said, “My son was arrested by the security director of Mukalla, who came to the (al-Shihr) area and summoned him without specifying the reasons.” He added, “The authorities told us that in 2016 my son was a member of an armed gang,” “My son was 16 years old at that time, and it was found that this accusation was completely untrue, as a court ruling acquitted him.” Jamal's father sent "SAM" a copy of the Criminal Court's ruling in Mukalla on December 29, 2022, which included the innocence of Taha Jamal Al-Awbthani of the charges against him. The organization has also viewed a complaint submitted by his father to the governor of Hadhramaut for the speedy release of his detained son in Al-Munawwara prison in Mukalla, but he has not received any response or reassurances about his son yet. Jamal's father calls on the authorities to release his son, saying, "Their term has expired, and we demand the return of my son so that he can attend his sister's wedding and complete his studies. My son is good at his studies. We want to save him so that he can start his life anew."
The father of Ahmed Fayez Baymen from Hadhramaut Governorate told SAM that his son was kidnapped in 2019 by the security forces supported by the coalition countries during the month of Ramadan. He said that his son (Ahmed) was with his brother Salem when they were stopped by a car carrying 4 masked gunmen. Then these masked gunmen told him they needed to talk to him for 10 minutes. After that, his brother went to the Ghail Bawazir police station, but he was shocked when the security director’s responded by saying that Ahmed was wanted at the airport and he was taken to the airport. Ahmed's father added that he had submitted a complaint to the deputy speaker of the Yemeni Parliament, in which he confirmed that he contacted the Emirati leader, Abu Abdullah, who told them that Ahmed was released in the middle of Ramadan, but when they contacted him again, he did not respond to them. They kept contacting different people, and they all told them either that Ahmed would go out, that he was out already, or that they did not know his whereabouts. Ahmed’s father said that they had no idea why he was abducted. He also holds the security authorities in Hadramout fully responsible for his son’s life.
Farouq Abdullah Al-Junaid, 34, from Ibb Governorate, a soldier in the Rescue Forces of the internationally recognized government, disappeared. He was kidnapped on May 22, 2017 from the city of Sana'a while he was traveling to Hadramout, where he lives with his family in the city of Mukalla. Since that date and until today, there is no information about his whereabouts or his legal and humanitarian status inside the Houthi-controlled Political Security prison in the capital, Sana'a. One of al-Junaid's relatives says, “At the beginning, we sent mediators who told us that he was there and detained by them (the Houthi group), but in the end they said he was not there.”
The mother of “Emad Ahmed Al-Obadi” from Aden, reached out to the team of SAM and said that that her son had been kidnapped for eight years since September 17, 2016 by the UAE-backed forces of the Southern Transitional Council without knowing the reasons behind his abduction or his whereabouts. “My son is mentally ill and needs constant follow-up and medication, given his difficult condition,” she added. She also stated in her testimony, “We have contacted all human rights organizations and government agencies in Aden, but to no avail. There are also many similar cases where we, the families of the abductees, have contacted dozens of authorities for years, but we have not received confirmed information about the conditions of our sons.” She pointed out there were many relatives of the forcibly disappeared passed away before they knew the fate of their abducted sons.
SAM stresses the right of detainees held by parties to the conflict during the war to basic protection and humane treatment. Also, information must be provided to their families about their fate and places of detention. Furthermore, detainees must know the reasons for their detention. They also should be given full opportunity to object to their detention in accordance with the law, meet their lawyers and be appear before a judge. They also must be released if the reasons are no longer available and the legal period for release has passed.
The rules of human rights law and international humanitarian law also prohibit torture and other types of ill-treatment. It is not permissible to invoke any exceptional circumstances that justify torture, and the state and the parties in control on the ground must investigate any cases of torture and refer those involved for investigation to hold accountable and prosecute those responsible.
SAM indicates that all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the countries of the Arab coalition “Saudi Arabia and the UAE”, must respect the legal principles and guarantees stipulated in Yemeni laws and the agreement ratified by the Republic of Yemen, especially the rights of detainees and their families.
SAM stresses that the examples it mentioned were a small part of a large group of testimonies and information that it receives on a daily basis about violations by the various parties to the conflict, which together constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the classification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The organization noted that what the various parties to the conflict are doing, flagrantly and unjustifiably violates the legal rules stipulated in the Yemeni constitution and international law, which constitute a serious attack that requires your urgent action to stop these practices.
The organization stresses that the procedures of habeas corpus and arresting persons must pass through several legal stages in order to meet the conditions required by the Yemeni constitution and international law. However, what the organization monitored and through several complaints it received showed that the parties to the conflict did not follow the procedures to arrest people and imprison them without any specific charges.
It pointed out that detaining Yemeni citizens without filing any charges or initiating legal procedures based on actual reasons was a kidnapping outside the framework of the law. This makes those parties fully legally responsible for the lives of these people and it is their responsibility to take all steps to ensure the release of people who have not been charged with anything, as well as trying people in accordance with the rules of Yemeni law and applying punishment to people who are found to be involved in legal violations after referring them to fair trials and allowing them to fully present their defences.
The organization concluded its statement by calling on all parties to the conflict to publish complete lists of the forcibly disappeared and secret prisons and to release them unconditionally. It also emphasized that the international community was required to play a more effective role in this file in order to end an era of many years of enforced disappearance, which included torture, persecution and deprivation of rights.