Yemen: Serious human rights violations reported in Saraf prison in Sana'a

18.01.21

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received reports about serious human rights violations amidst poor conditions in prisons in Yemen including Saraf prison.

Saraf Prison, which is housed within a large building, is located in the Saraf area of the Bani Hushaysh District (main photo) in the north of the capital, Sana'a. The cells, which are narrow, dark and lack ventilation, are crowded with prisoners, most of whom are prisoners of conscience. This is the exact description of Saraf Prison and the situation of the detainees in it.

The prison was established in 2002 and was previously controlled by the National Security Agency, which was established in the same year, and is currently run by Security and Intelligence Agency. The number of prisoners in Saraf prison are in the hundreds, according to reliable local reports.

The visits by the families of detainees are not organised formally but are rather determined by the mood of those in charge of the prison administration, and may be prevented for any reason. They are usually monthly or every three weeks. Telephone calls are allowed, but are rare.

The cells in Saraf Prison are of two types, rooms of ten and a half square meters in size containing a bathroom which are supposed to accommodate four people, but are packed with 10 to 12 prisoners. There are also individual cells, smaller in size and designed for one person, in which 4 to 5 people are crammed. The ventilation hatch is identical to that of a 4-inch water pipe. The bathrooms are very poor, with a wall height of 50 cm, so there is no privacy.

There is no medical clinic or doctor at Saraf Prison, and the only medicine available is often sedatives. Daily exercise is not allowed despite the fact that prisoners live in narrow, unclean cells that are not ventilated, and do not meet the minimum hygienic conditions.

Most of the detainees in Saraf Prison are from the Governorates of Rayma and Al-Hodeidah, and thus it is far from their families' residence, so it is difficult to transport food to them. Prisoners are prohibited from receiving clothes, which makes them suffer from the severe winter cold.

The Bani Hushaysh district was previously bombed by the Saudi-led international coalition, which puts the lives of prisoners in constant danger.

In addition, books, stationery and pens are prohibited in prisons in Yemen, and any prisoner who is found in possession of a pen will be subjected to severe beatings. Dr. Yousif Saleh Ali Al-Bawab, who is currently detained in the Security and Intelligence Prison in Sana'a, has been demanding his research files and his personal computer, to no avail. Abdullah Al-Masuri, who was released from the Security and Intelligence Prison on 15 October 2019 in a prisoner exchange deal, said he was severely beaten and suffered kidney failure as a result, because they found a pen in his possession while he was imprisoned. A defense lawyer was beaten at a court session and imprisoned for one day for giving a pen to a detainee.

GCHR urges the de facto authorities in Sana'a, the Houthis, to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience detained in Saraf Prison as well as all other prisons. Pending the release of prisoners, GCHR also calls for the full implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), especially with regard to visits, to allow them to receive clothes to protect them from the winter cold, health care, and to eliminate overcrowding in cells.