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YEMEN: U.S Involvement in UAE Controlled Torture and Detention Centres

Vanessa Beeley
21st Century Wire

“Detainees were physically tortured and disfigured by several methods including whippings with power cords, batons, steel bars taken from school desks; slapping the face and kicking the body especially the injured areas; burning the skin with lit cigarettes; placing the body in a sewage compartment up to the neck and pouring sewage and waste water on wounds.

Forcing the drinking of water so that blood would thin out and bleed more while not allowing the other detainees to help stop the bleeding with their clothes; slamming the head against the wall, electrocuting and threatening use of an electric saw to dismember the body.” ~Mohammed Al Wazir

Yesterday, reports flooded corporate media in the West of the torture sites and prisons in the south of Yemen. Previous reports had also highlighted potential U.S involvement in the detention centres, with U.S forces allegedy working as interrogators in these dens of suffering for the Yemeni people.

The Legal Centre for Rights and Development in Yemen and ARWA Rights have been documenting the hideous crimes committed in these makeshift prisons and torture chambers for some time. According to Mohammed Al Wazir of Arwa Rights:

“This is what occupiers and their local forces do to subdue those who rebel against their authority.  The case in Yemen is not any different. (These torture centres have been established by) powers backing a Saudi UAE Coalition who have occupied parts of the South.  It comes as no surprise to me. I know some people who are from the South who have said that torture is rampant.”

The reports from both Arwa Rights and LCFRD provide horrifying details on the methods of torture used against civilians by the UAE forces and Yemeni forces loyal to the Saudi Coalition, backed and sponsored by the U.S. U.K. and France who have supplied the munitions & aviation refuelling for the Saudi war of aggression against a popular resistance movement that has so far repelled disproportionate force, starvation, cholera and torture to defend their right to self determination without the dehabilitating effects of Saudi colonization.

In June 2017, Human Rights Watch produced a report in which they stated:

“HRW has documented the cases of 49 people, including four children, who have been arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in the Aden and Hadramawt governates of Yemen over the last year. At least 38 appear to have been arrested or detained by UAE-backed security forces. Multiple sources, including Yemeni government officials, have reported the existence of numerous informal detention facilities and secret prisons in Aden and Hadramawt, including at least two run by the UAE and others run by UAE-backed Yemeni security forces. Human Rights Watch documented people held at 11 such sites in the two governorates.”

Al Wazir told me that the numbers of alleged cases and allegations provided by survivors of these torture centres or their families have increased exponentially. In email correspondence with Vanessa Beeley of 21st Century Wire, Al Wazir explained the background to the rise in the torture cases:

“From the outset of the war on Yemen, the Saudi Coalition and the Hadi government-in-exile it backed provided material support to armed groups in Taiz belonging to Hamood Almikhlafi and Adel Abdeh bin Numan (better known as Abu al-Abbas) both of whom operated under the command of the Saudi Coalition.

With support from the Saudi Coalition and the Hadi government it backed, the armed groups under the local command of Almikhalifi and Abu al-Abbas allegedly detained civilians in Taiz arbitrarily on discriminatory grounds such as national origin, sectarian considerations and political affiliations; and committed torture, cruel and inhumane treatment against those civilian detainees as well.”

Al Wazir summarised the allegations received by LCFRD. I have paraphrased below:

Testimony received by LCFRD from released detainees details the heinous methods used against these civilians. All were restricted, hands tied behind their back, blindfolded before they were taken to different locations, confined to unsanitary, small spaces, interrogated, beaten before being transferred to buildings converted into torture chambers – disused school classrooms, cafeterias. Once inside these buildings the detainees would be subjected to further torture or cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment at the hands of their captors.

Detainees would be locked into tiny rooms where waste water had overflowed onto the floor. Mentally ill people were also taken off the streets and confined in these conditions alongside other detainees. Psychological torture was rife, threats of being beheaded, burned alive, being thrown off a building or mountain which was allegedly carried out with some of the detainees according to the allegations documented by LCFRD. Detainees were threatened with all manner of retribution if they ever spoke about their experiences after their release.

Food and water was witheld and when offered was not fit for human consumption. The detainees were only allowed to shower once every five days and were not given clean water to perform their ablutions before prayers. No medical treatment was provided for detainees who contracted disease in the filthy environment or whose torture-inflicted wounds became life-threateningly infected.

This was wholesale humiliation and degradation of human dignity, inflicting of extreme pain and suffering upon a people already subjected to almost every manner of deprivation and terror by the U.S, U.K sponsored Saudi Coalition throughout the last three years of unlawful aggression against this recalcitrant nation that has refused to bow down to such abject cruelty and brutality.

LCFRD Testimonies 

The following are a number of the testimonies taken from detainees and their families by LCFRD:

1: Waheeb Al Rumaima states:

“I was released yesterday. I was detained by Abu al-Abbas from what is called the resistance group since 22 August 2015 in Taiz, in Zeena. I was thereafter transferred to the Bab Al Kabeer prison. After that they took me to the Hayel Compound for Plants under Alqahira Citadel. This prison belonged to Abu al-Abbas. They committed various types of torture against the detainees including myself and were mistreated when it came to eating and drinking. This continued for four to five months. We were given only 3-4 rootis (bread) and a few green beans that were very salty. After they repaired the school what little food was provided was very salty. We would undergo beatings, shouting and insults by the members of what was called the political security.  I recall some of the exposed facial features of the person who tortured me.  He was known to be a leader within Daesh’s (I.S.I.S.) branch in Taiz.

My uncle Sadiq was falsely accused before the war of having killed someone in Sabr, Taiz. When the war came, he was caught and taken to Abu al-Abbas who was told that he killed many in Abu al-Abbas’ armed groups. Then Abu al-Abbas took him from the location we were at and when I asked some of the people we were told they had beheaded him in the Sailah (Water Channel). And they informed me of this with pride. In addition, one of them said with pride again that a person from Sanaa was also taken to a high point and thrown off the edge.  I called on the human rights organizations in fairness to follow up our brothers prisoners. 

Several people interrogated us and tortured us. They also interrogated me for two consecutive nights, treated us inhumanely, and kept us hungry and thirsty. We drank from the sewer and they gave us one piece of bread and a small bowl of green beans for all ten of us when it was barely sufficient for one person. We remained there for 7 months. Then we were moved and stayed for about 22 days at the girls’ school of Hail Saeed Anam in Al-Maidan neighborhood which was previously called al-Shabaka just below Cairo’s castle.

They put us in the school canteen in a room with dimensions no more than two meters by four meters. They placed a make shift toilet in the same room. We were 25 people and they kept us confined in this small room. The ceiling was dripping with our sweat due to the heat. We stayed in that room for 17 days and could only wash every 5 days.  We would hold steadfast to our 5 daily prayers despite not having water for ablutions.  Instead we were doing tayammum [a ritual whereby the motions of ablution are made with dust when water is not present] from the wall.  There was a man with us with four wounds.  We wanted to compress his wounds but they prevented us, and instead beat him causing him to bleed more.  They gave him water to thin out his blood so he would bleed even more.

Those who tortured us had there faces covered and we only knew them through their voices during the interrogation and that became more familiar with the days. If they came to give us with food, they would enter with ten armed men.”

2: Murtadha al-Juneid states:

“We were on a bus making our way to Taiz city from the bridge, and the group of Abu al-Abbas and Omar Jalal detained us, and took us to a location where we were tortured.  We sat in dirty places with exposed to infectious diseases.  We were tortured and prevented from eating and drinking.  We were confronted with obscene insults and taken to a Compound belonging to [Hayel] Said, an educational center under Cairo Castle where we were continuously tortured.   They would staple our hands.  One of those who tortured us was a person named Ahmad Abbas but there were others. I had bullet wounds from the crossfire when I was captured. They operated on my wounds but never stitched me up.  I remained detained for 11 months.”

3: Mohammad al-Amri states:

“I was detained and taken to the Hail Saeed Girls School compound where I was tortured along with others including Ammar, Hadi and Mukhtar.  I was accused of being the son of a leader, was treated inhumanely because of such.   I was beaten with big wooden sticks not given enough food.  From the extreme hunger, I would wish for a piece of dry bread to eat. The food was not enough for one person. We were given some rice and some tahini and two pieces of bread.

This was the case of Ahmed Saleh, a citizen who had nothing to do with the conflict, but was passing through the street in Taiz and was wounded in one of his legs. Some leaders of the group would torture and physically injure him. He had a previous injury that became worse because of the torture and that mentally depressed him as it was getting better before he was detained.  There was a person by the name of Salih al-Gheisi, who had been detained by these groups for 11 months, suffering psychological and physical torture. When we met him, he said, “I was taken by the group and threatened that I was going to be killed in al-Sailah while they beat us and insulted us.”

4: Mohammad al-Hadhari states:

“We were arrested in Sabr and taken to a location by a leader of the group named Akram on August 16, 2015.  The first day were taken to the brother of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Waqar, his real name (Tawfiq Jabari) and his brothers were Fadl and Haytham.  He was a known bandit and thief and was given a position suddenly within the group.  He would torture us physically by beating us on the head with old chains and other types of restraints. For breakfast we had a piece of bread with a few green beans while lunch was a little rice, one piece of bread per person, and a little tahini. The methods used to torture me varied and included verbal threats such as we will slaughter you, we will burn you and so on.  I was physically torture by clubs with spikes, and wires mercilessly. They put us in the sewer. Some of us were tortured by being placed in the sewers up to the neck.  They entered the bathroom and poured sewage on detainees to obtain confessions. Some of them were captured just because they were passing on the road, and were place next to unhygienic mentally ill persons. They tortured us until five or seven days ago.”

Al Wazir of ARWA Rights also told me:

“In a written statement to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 16 May 2017, before the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council commenced, ARWA expressed its deep concern regarding arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial killings in Maarib, Yemen.  ARWA was contacted by the brother of the victim who provided written testimony on the enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and alleged killing of Mabkhoot Saleh Mabkhoot Alnuaimi claiming the following:

On 30 September 2016, an armed group operating under (Saudi) Coalition command detained Alnuaimi at a checkpoint, after removing him forcefully from the car he, his wife and children were in while they were on their way to Maarib from Nihm to escape the fighting.  He was taken to the 7th District in Fardhat Nihm then allegedly transferred some time later to a facility belonging to what is referred to as the General Intelligence in Maarib City.   Six months later on 26 March 2017, Alnuaimi’s family received word that he was dead but until this date the family has never received the body nor has it been able to locate the body despite seeking mediations by the International Red Cross.”

The suggestion made by The Guardian (based on the AP report with ‘additional reporting from Patrick Wintour) that these prisons focus on Al Qaeda or Islamic State members is misleading as reports have been consistently coming out of Yemen that suggest the U.S and the Saudi Coalition are working in collaboration with Al Qaeda (Arab Peninsula) particularly in the securement of the southern provinces that are the destination of the proposed pipeline (exposed by Wikileaks) to bring oil down to the Gulf of Aden from the Al Jawf & Marib regions of Yemen, circumnavigating the Yemeni controlled Bab El Mandeb straits and the Iranian controlled Straits of Hormuz. Al Qaeda coincidentally are concentrated in the regions most beneficial for this U.S approved Saudi resource theft project.

The U.S mission creep inside Yemen has been evident for some time with special forces landing safely in Lahj close to Al Qaeda held territory in May 2016.

The U.S, for all their posturing as the world’s moral authority, are the world’s expert in some of the most heinous torture practices therefore it should be no great surprise that the UAE, a close ally of the U.S, is practising similar techniques to those used in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other CIA-run black sites globally. While the US feigns moral outrage when it comes to the alleged crimes of nations, like Syria, targeted for regime change or destabilization, the U.S are  engaged in enabling and carrying out some of the most egregious human rights abuses and violations of our time.


Vanessa Beeley is an independent, anti-imperialist journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team.

READ MORE YEMEN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Yemen Files




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