Houthis accused of ‘arrest’ and ‘torture’ of rivals
Amnesty says the Houthi clampdown is part of the militias’ campaign to defeat opposition in areas of Yemen under its control
Houthi militias have carried out a wave of arrests of their opponents in Yemen, seizing them at gunpoint and torturing some, rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
An examination of 60 cases in the report showed a pattern of “arbitrary arrests” and “enforced disappearances” by the Iranian-backed Houthis - who are also backed by forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The rights group says the Houthi clampdown is part of the militias’ campaign to defeat opposition in areas of Yemen under its control.
Incidents that took place in the cities of Sanaa, Taiz, Ibb and Hodeidah between December 2014 and March 2016, show that those detained include political opposition figures, human rights activists, journalists and academics.
Many of those detained were “imprisoned for prolonged periods, suffered torture and other ill-treatment and denied access to a lawyer or their family,” the report said.
Essam al-Batraa, a Yemeni activist, told Al Arabiya English that his lawmaker father, Abdulhamid al-Batraa has been detained for over three months as the Houthi siege of Taiz, southwest of the capital Sanaa, rages on.
“I haven’t been able to visit him,” Batraa said.
The activist said that his father’s health has deteriorated during his imprisonment. He is in severe need of heart surgery.
“It is hurtful to see the people closest to you unjustly arrested and go through these difficult circumstances, as well as having a serious illness,” he said.
Adam Baron, an expert on Yemen at the European Council on Foreign Relations says within Yemen, these detentions are already widely known, but added that “the report could help to focus international attention on the cases of those detained by the Houthis and their allies.”
The report came in the same day when Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher rejected a unity government proposed by the Houthis whom he accused of bringing the country’s economy to the brink of collapse.
Senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics think-tank, Dr. Theodore Karasik, says the NGO's timing on the report helps support the Saudi-backed Yemeni government's position in the diplomatic talks.
“It establishes one of the first instances of Houthis committing atrocities,” Karasik said.
On Tuesday, the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, led by President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, suspended its participation in the UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait. The Hadi delegation said it would only return if the Houthis committed to withdraw from cities they have seized since 2014 and hand over their weapons.
Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on Wednesday also called on the two sides to continue negotiating to “reach positive results,” the official KUNA news agency reported.
A wide gap still separates the Houthis and the Western-backed government of Hadi after nearly a month of peace talks in Kuwait intended to end a year of war that has killed more than 6,200 people, half of them civilians.
The talks center on government demands for the Houthis to hand over their weapons and leave cities captured since 2014, and the formation of a new unity government that would include the Houthis. The Saudi-backed Hadi government is currently based in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, while the Houthis retain control of the capital Sanaa.