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UN report: All parties in Yemen committed torture

Houthi rebels in Yemen [file phoro]
Houthi rebels in Yemen [file phoro]

The UAE, the Yemeni government and the Houthis have all committed torture in the conflict in Yemen, a new UN report has said.

The 329-page report which was submitted to the Security Council on 26 January was made public yesterday. In it the publication a panel of Yemen experts concluded: “The Government of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Houthi-Saleh forces have all engaged in arbitrary arrests and detentions, carried out enforced disappearances and committed torture.”

Investigations in to 12 cases of detention by the United Arab Emirates in Burayqah, at the Al Rayyan airport led the experts to conclude that the UAE were responsible for torture, including imprisonment in metal cages, ill treatment, enforced disappearance of detainees and denial of due process.

The experts requested the UAE to provide the “legal authority” under which its forces operated as a “foreign force”, but “did not receive” a response. Instead, Emirati officials “denied” that they operated detention facilities in Yemen. Both the governments of Yemen and the UAE refused to conduct investigations into the abuse.

“After nearly three years of conflict, Yemen, as a State, has all but ceased to exist. Instead of a single State there are warring statelets, and no one side has either the political support or the military strength to reunite the country or to achieve victory on the battlefield,” the report warned.

Read: Yemen war ‘escalating’, says UN human rights chief

The UN panel of experts believe the severance between the Houthis and the late, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh “opened a window of opportunity for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and forces loyal to the Government of Yemen to regain territory”. However, the window to do so is “unlikely to last for long” or “be sufficient” to end the war.

In northern Yemen, the Houthis are “working to consolidate” territory under their control following the killing of Saleh on 4 December last year.

The report goes on to mention that internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s authority in southern Yemen has “weakened” by the “defection” of several governors to the United Arab Emirates-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) which seeks to secede from northern Yemen.

Complications on the ground

One major challenge that was raised is the “existence of proxy forces, armed and funded by member of States of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, who pursue their own objectives on the ground”. The conflict is further complicated with the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Daesh, which are both striking Houthi positions as well as those of forces loyal to Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition.

The report warns of “missile remnants” and related military equipment, including “unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin” brought into Yemen after the levying of an UN-backed arms embargo which was put in force in 2015.

#YemeniCrisis

The Houthis have recently used “sea mines” in the Red Sea which can remain for as long as “6 to 10 years” threatening commercial imports to Yemen and humanitarian aid access.

The report confirmed the use of “starvation” as a weapon against the Yemenis by the Saudi-led coalition, which violated international law. But the blame was put on all sides of the conflict, which have violated international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

‘Indiscriminate’ Saudi strikes

Saudi Arabia’s air strikes did not go unnoticed in the report. They were described as “indiscriminate” including the use of explosive weapons by the Houthis, which both had a “continued affect” on civilians and infrastructure “disproportionately”.

The experts assessed ten air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition which resulted in 157 fatalities and 135 injuries, including at least 85 children. The report notes that the strikes destroyed five residential buildings, two civilian vessels, a market, hotel and the position of Yemen government forces.

Read: 47,000 displaced in Yemen since December

Similarly, the panel investigated ten cases where explosive weapons were used by the Houthis and Saleh forces, which resulted in 23 civilian deaths.

The UN report comes one day after the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a 28-page document mapping threats with a special focus on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The US believes that the death of former Yemeni president Saleh will likely “further complicate the conflict”.

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