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Report: US interrogators working at UAE prisons

January 31, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Yemeni prisoners, 20 June 2018 [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

US interrogators are present in UAE prisons in Yemen, the Daily Beast has revealed today, providing shocking evidence that the American military is a witness to the torture of Yemenis.

In a series of interviews, two former detainees have testified to being interrogated by men with American accents, who looked on as they were beaten and electrocuted.

“They would strip me naked, they would beat me very harshly and slowly you start to understand the dynamics in the room. These are the two people, one of them is overseeing the whole interrogation and the other is doing the questioning and ordering the torture,” a Yemeni man identified only as Salvatore said, suggesting that the US was more that an unwilling observer.

In December, the Pentagon formally acknowledged for the first time that US military personnel operate in the Yemen prisons: “US forces do not conduct detention operations in Yemen; rather, US forces conduct intelligence interrogations of detainees held in partner custody,” the Pentagon reported.

However the latest accounts are the first that prove that the US is not only a witness, but a partner to torture of detainees. Both men say they saw Americans in military uniforms, complete with American flag insignia, and that a larger US presence was witnessed in a prison in Aden, where they were electrocuted, beaten and sexually threatened, and where others have been raped.

Independently, the two former prisoners and another Yemeni attorney also described a dog inside the Coalition Base which Emirati guards would use to threaten detainees. The dog, said to have a blonde coat, was nicknamed Shakira.

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The CIA and the Emirati embassy in Washington refused to comment on the allegations; the US has previously said it has found no evidence that any US allies have abused detainees in Yemen.

It has maintained this stance despite Amnesty International calling for the UAE to be investigated for war crimes, due to the extent of torture taking place in secret prisons around Yemen. A report by the Associated Press last year also found that hundreds of prisoners had been sexually abused, with detainees detailing their experiences in drawings; one showed a man hanging naked from chains while he is being electrocuted, another, an inmate on the floor surrounded by snarling dogs as several people kick him, as well as several graphic depictions of anal rape.

“With each brave and credible account of appalling mistreatment in these jails, the Department of Defence’s see-no-evil denial becomes harder to credit. How much more evidence does the Pentagon need that Americans are complicit in the UAE’s brutal torture regime?” Reprieve Staff Attorney Jennifer Gibson said in a statement.

“These brave Yemenis have come forward at huge personal risk. Their stories should shock Americans who thought we had closed the book on torture after the horrors of the waterboarding era.”

A Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, launched a campaign into Yemen in 2015 after Houthi rebels overran much of the country and took over the capital, Sanaa. With US support, the coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The violence has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems. Fighting has killed thousands of civlians, bringing some 85,000 children to the brink of starvation, prompting the UN to describe the situation as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.

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