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YEMEN: Dozens detained in secret dungeons

October 24, 2008 |  8:11 am


Fighting between official armed forces and rebels in Yemen was officially over this summer. But dozens of political prisoners remained locked up in Yemeni prisons without charge or trial with some even believed to be missing, an international human rights organization declared today.

According to a new report published today by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, security forces in this poor Arab country bordering Saudi Arabia have “systematically and unlawfully” jailed several hundred people, including journalists, during the four-year civil war with rebel forces in the northern parts of the country.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said:

“Dozens of people who committed no crime are still languishing in Yemeni prisons, months after the president promised to deal with their cases… Some family members still don’t know if their loved ones who were ‘disappeared’ are dead or alive.”

After declaring in July the end of fighting between Houthi insurgents and the government, the president of the country, Ali Abdullah Saleh, ordered some prisoners released but many remain in jail.

Those arrested in the conflict comprise a wide range of people not actively participating in hostilities against government forces, according to the 47-page report, “Disappearances and Arbitrary Arrests in the Armed Conflict with Huthi Rebels in Yemen.” 

Detainees included people who targeted for their religious activism, ones held hostage to pressure a wanted family member to surrender or even, more recently, journalists and website writers locked up merely for publishing information about the conflict.

In the 1990s, Houthis emerged in Northern Yemen as a pacifist Shiite religious revivalist movement, but in 2004 after the Yemeni government closed their religious schools they launched an armed conflict against authorities.

Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: The old city of Sana, Yemen. Credit: Bloomberg News