UAE denies role in torture sites across Yemen after investigations point to complicity

UAE denies role in torture sites across Yemen after investigations point to complicity
The UAE said it has no role in at least 18 black-sites in Yemen where torture took place, according to information revealed in an AP investigation last week.
2 min read
26 June, 2017
The UAE denied any role in secret prisons across Yemen [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates has denied claims it is running secret prisons in Yemen where torture was said to be widely used against detainees in various reports published by the Associated Press and Human Rights Watch.

In an official statement released by the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, officials tried to accuse the Houthi movement of propaganda and claimed that it was a political manoeuvre to "defame the Arab coalition in Yemen, which intervened to save the Yemeni people.” 

The statement suggested only Yemeni authorities were involved in the running and managing of jails in Yemen, and claimed the UAE's role in the war-torn country was limited to training Yemeni forces. It made no mention of the UAE's support of various political factions in the Yemen or of its previous support of the Houthi movement. 

Last week, an AP investigation revealed the United States was interrogating hundreds of men who were tortured by UAE prison guards in the secret sites.

Senior US military personnel confirmed their involvement, but denied any knowledge of human rights abuses.

Interrogating the victims of torture is illegal under international humanitarian law, as it is seen as complicity.

"We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct," said Defence Department spokesperson, Dana White.

"We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights."

At least eighteen separate secret prisons were found to be in operation across south Yemen, all either run or supported by the UAE.

In a separate report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday that the UAE was responsible for running two of 11 secret prisons in south Yemen.

HRW quoted interviews from former detainees, families of detainees, lawyers and Yemeni government officials.

As a result of these interviews, it had isolated the cases of 49 people, including children, who had been tortured.

One former detainee reported that inmates were kept blindfolded in cramped conditions in shipping containers for weeks at a time.

"The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber."

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition to defeat the Houthi-backed Yemeni rebels, but has also helped in a US-led mission to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).