Yemeni Houthi rebels crush opposition with campaign of terror

Yemeni Houthi rebels crush opposition with campaign of terror
Amnesty International have reported the abduction, torture and disappearances of dozens of Yemenis, as the Houthi rebels clamp down on all forms of opposition in their territories.
4 min read
18 May, 2016
Houthi rebels have an iron grip over the Yemeni capital Sanaa [AFP]
Yemeni rebels are carrying out a wave of extrajudicial arrests, torture and disappearance of critics, enforcing an atmosphere of fear in the war-torn capital Sanaa.

Houthi militants – backed by army soldiers loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh – have led a brutal crackdown on opponents according to an Amnesty International report.

Entitled Where is My Father?, the report details 60 cases of detention in territories under rebel control, including Sanaa, Taiz and Hodeidah between December 2014 and March 2016.

Those targeted include opposition figures, journalists, human rights' campaigners, academics and others, who have been held incommunicado and tortured.

"Houthi forces have presided over a brutal and deliberate campaign targeting their political opponents and other critics since December 2014," said James Lynch, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. 

"Hundreds of people have been rounded up and held without charge or trial, and in some cases they have been forcibly disappeared in flagrant violation of international law."

'Chilling campaign'

The report built on 60 detailed cases of detention, in what Amnesty International described as part of a "chilling campaign to quash dissent".

The Houthis and their allies have held the capital Sanaa since 2014, when they later led a military campaign to take territory in the rest of the country as the internationally-recognised government fled southwards.

A Saudi-led military coalition launched brutal air raids on Houthi-controlled territories in March 2015. Now a joint Gulf and pro-government force has managed to recapture some Yemeni territories from its base in Aden, on the country's southern coast.

Some of those detained have languished in makeshift jails for 17 months without going on trial. None of the detainees featured in the Amnesty report were given an official reason for their detention or the right to challenge the legality of their detention.

Houthi sources had previously told the human rights' group that some prisoners detained for giving GPS locations to Saudi-led forces. The rebels have not responded to Amnesty International's calls for their release.

Prisoners have been held in secret makeshift detention centres, including homes and frequently transferred to new locations. Eighteen people in the report are still being held in these prisons, and the whereabouts of three are unknown.
Some of those detained have languished in makeshift jails for 17 months without going on trial
Political opposition

Abdul-ilah Saylan, a 21-year-old student, was picked up by security forces in Sanaa in August 2015 and has been frequently tortured in front of family members.

"The guard began to beat him. Three other guards joined in and we watched… as the four guards beat him viciously," said one family member. 

"Can you imagine how it felt to see him bleed from his nose and mouth and finally faint from the beatings while being unable to do anything to help him? They dragged him back inside when he fainted and told us to go home."
Can you imagine how it felt to see him bleed from his nose and mouth and finally faint from the beatings while being unable to do anything to help him?
Weeks later his family visited him to see his face blue with bruises sustained during beatings. He told them that when he regained consciousness seven men beat him until he nearly passed out again.

In September 2015, Saylan appeared on Yemeni TV making a "confession" – under apparent duress – saying he was a fighter for an anti-Houthi group. Yet, he has never been charged for a crime.

Another detainee was among 25 journalists, human rights workers and activists arrested at the Ibb Garden Hotel in October 2015 by pro-Houthi forces.

He was blindfolded and tortured for 90 minutes – sustaining beatings all over his body from a stick and being given electric shocks.

Many of those arrested are journalists and activists, along with members of the opposition Islah Party, an Islamist movement that has supported the Saudi-led intervention in the country.

Mohammed Qahtan, a prominent member of the party, has been missing since his abduction by security forces in April 2015. His family fear he might be dead, as has been the case of other opponents of the Yemeni rebels.