Torture in Yemen: Oppression and Impunity Continue
I. A Brief Overview of Torture in the Republic of Yemen
Torture is a crime that violates the human right to physical integrity, and is prohibited by national legislations and international conventions, given that torture is a grave violation, and considering the physical and moral damage sustained by the victims. Furthermore, there is no statute of limitations on torture crimes.
However, accountability and punishment still fail to deter the perpetrators, and torture continues to be practiced in many countries ruled by authoritarian regimes or absolute monarchies, in addition to countries suffering from armed conflicts between different political forces or armed groups. In such contexts, political opponents and human rights activists often face significant harm from torture inflicted through numerous and methods, which can sometimes amount to the victim’s death.
The Republic of Yemen is not immune to these violations. The incidence of torture has increased after the 2011 protests, as many persons and activists were arrested and subjected to torture for taking part in the popular movement. Human rights lawyers took the cases of these detainees, including Ibrahim Al-Hammadi and 30 others, who were accused of bombing the presidential residence in June 2011.
Lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra was able to visit them together with fellow lawyer and human rights activist Abdul-Rahman Berman on 28 December 2012. The detainees were forcibly disappeared since their arrest on 7 June 2011, until their case was referred to the specialised criminal prosecution on 2 January 2012. During that period, they were subjected to various forms of torture.
Torture crimes briefly decreased for a number of reasons, including the formation of a national consensus government led by Mohammed Salem Basnadwa. This changed, however, following the Houthi group’s takeover of the capital Sanaa in September 2014, and the intervention of the Arab Coalition in support of president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, in March 2015. Both events led to multiple actors controlling the political scene in Yemen, and thus the fate of the country’s people.
These parties are the Houthis, who control most of the northern provinces except for Marib and Shabwa; pro-government forces of president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi; the Southern Transitional Council; and Tareq Saleh's forces which control the remaining provinces. The latter two parties owe allegiance to and operate under the command of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Torture of political opponents, journalists and human rights activists, committed by all parties has unexpectedly and unprecedentedly moved to the forefront. Many victims died as a result of torture. The intensity of torture crimes vary among these parties, with the Houthi group and the Southern Transitional Council being the most notorious perpetrators.
Sanaa, controlled by the Houthi group, has become virtually devoid of political opponents and independent journalists, who are either detained or displaced. The Houthi group also broke into and shut down all media channels and news sites opposed to its policies.