«1 2 Executive Summary Yemen has been experiencing a rise in the number of abductions, especially in its south- ern region and some central areas ...»
Yemen has been experiencing a rise in the number of abductions, especially in its south-
ern region and some central areas where militant Houthis have the upper hand. Since
the fall of the former regime in 2011, chaos has taken over in Yemen. On 21 September,
2014, the chaos became worse when the capital Sana’a was seized by the Houthis and
some of the armed groups affiliated with the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Co-authored by the Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and the Yemeni Alliance for Human Rights-Peace Winds, this report documents abductions of individ- uals by the Houthi militias and allied armed groups in 17 Yemeni governorates. It also highlights the violations that usually follow these abductions, such as use of individuals as human shields and disappearance without trace or acknowledgement. Among those targeted are political opponents, human rights activists and journalists. These crimes ac- celerated beginning in June 2014 and have continued through the date of this publication.
This report is the first of its kind to address the crimes of abduction and enforced dis- appearance perpetrated in Yemen by the Houthis and their allies. It relies on specific, statistical evidence, as well as eyewitness testimony.
Abduction in this report refers to cases in which armed groups seize individuals and deprive them of their freedom without proper authorization. Forced disappearance is 3 defined in Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as when this deprivation of liberty is committed under the cloak of total secrecy by agents of the state or entities acting with state authorization or support. In Article 7 of the Rome Statute, the definition is broadened to include per- petrators who are not sponsored by the state in any way, and enforced disappearance is labeled a crime against humanity.
Abduction and enforced disappearance are particularly heinous crimes because both the victims and their families are subjected to prolonged punishment. Relatives have no idea whether their loved ones are dead or alive, or—if alive—the nature of their circumstances. Forced disappearance does not allow legal protection, family visits or implementation of any standards of safety.
This report concludes these crimes are commonly practiced by the Houthis and the allied armed groups. The majority of the cases occurred following the March 2015 an- nouncement by the Arab Coalition a war against the perpetrators of the coup that ousted Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. In just one week after the launch of the war, about 1,000 individuals were abducted.
Significant risk was assumed by the staff who prepared this report on behalf of Euro-Med and the Yemeni Coalition. Field investigators worked in extraordinary circumstances, placing their lives in danger as they moved from one place to another despite the widespread bombing, shelling and firing. Likewise, victims’ families often hesitated and even refused to give information because they were fearful of angering the kidnappers.
Field investigators were distributed according to their places of residence. Interviews with families and other eyewitnesses, conducted both by phone and in person, were the main source of information. However, each case then was investigated independently and the results were compared and analyzed to ensure their authenticity.
We publish this report to lay the groundwork for justice in Yemen. We hope the international community, led by the UN Security Council, and the different Yemeni actors will act urgently to staunch the bleeding and bring the perpetrators of this suffering to justice.
The Houthi militia and armed groups affiliated with the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh were responsible for all of these cases.
Most of the abductees are activists and community leaders who oppose Houthi dominance in Yemen and consider Hadi “the legitimate president.” Some of these captured individuals are icons and members of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, a Sunni party known to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The remaining kidnapping victims include academics, journalists and activists working to document human rights violations in Yemen.
According to Article 5 of Yemeni Law 24, passed in 1998, perpetrators abduct victims on behalf of a particular interest or to pressure the authorities must be punished.
Table 1: Number of Abductees in Yemen, July 2014-October 2015
The second-largest number, 796, occurred in the overall governorate of Sana’a. This is due to the governorate’s proximity to Sana’a city and the widespread tribal opposition to the Houthis, especially by the Arheb and Hamdan tribes in the northern parts. Most of the victims in the Sana’a governorate belonged to these latter two families who wish to take revenge; thus, the Houthis want to control this area entirely.
Imran and Al-Hadeeda governorates experienced the third-largest number of abductions and forced disappearances, with 530 each. Next are the governorates of Aden, 514 abductees; Ebb, 495, Al-Dalee, 456; and Lahj, 450. All of these governorates are in southern Yemen, with the exception of Ebb (central Yemen).
The Houthi militia and armed groups also committed abductions in the governorate of Thimar, home to a large number of Yazidis. Among the 17 targeted governorates in Yemen, Thimar ranked eighth in terms of the number of individuals abducted, at 401.
Al-Bydaa governorate ranked ninth with 341 abductees.
The Houthi militia and its allied armed groups have committed many crimes against individuals who oppose the so-called coup against President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and their rule over parts of the country. The crimes against these opponents have targeted women and children, people with special needs, and academics and media activists.
1. Children Children are reportedly kidnapped on a daily basis, primarily from the capital and other major cities under the control of the Houthis. During 17 months of investigation, our team has documented 263 cases of abductions of Yemeni children.
The families of these children claim their kids were forced by the Houthis and their allied armed groups to fight in different areas of the country. They were detained for days in an attempt to pressure their families to halt their resistance and declare their opposition to the Decisive Storm, a month-long military campaign led by Saudi Arabia to “restore constitutional legitimacy in Yemen.” One parent who lives in the Al-Jameaa neighborhood in Sana’a told us that Houthi militants from the same neighborhood abducted his 15-year-old son. They took him to the city of Taez, where he was ordered to fight the popular resistance, which caught and imprisoned him two weeks later.
On 23 December, 2014, a number of Houthi militants kidnapped Abdel-Elah Nakee, 16.
They stormed his apartment in the Hashdi building on Cairo Street, Sana’a. According to the testimony of one of his relatives, many militants descended on the building and started checking apartments in search of Mohsen Nakee, Abdel-Elah’s brother, who was accused of assassinating a Houthi-affiliated community leader, Faisal Al-Sahrif. When the militants could not find Mohsen, they seized Abdel-Elah instead and used him as a hostage to pressure his brother to surrender. Again, tribal intervention resulted in Abdel-Elah’s release.
2. Women Under international law, women are entitled to special protection. In addition, Yemeni tribal norms dictate that women must never be harmed for any reason; it is considered “a black shame” to kidnap or assault a woman.
The Houthis and their armed groups have abducted women in four cases, three in Sana’a city and one in Ebb. Our team could not investigate these cases thoroughly, because the victims’ families refused to cooperate. They said it would be a public shame, since female-related issues are extremely sensitive in Yemeni society.
One of these cases, however, was covered by the media due to its political importance, and received wide condemnation from Yemenis. On 9 August, 2015, three women leaders of the Islah Congregation party were meeting in the middle of Sana’a. They were Ummet Al-Salam Al-Hajj, the party’s chief of women’s issues, and Sameera Al-Shaor and Fatima Harba, both party leaders. During their meeting, the Houthis and their allies raided and took them to the Al-Jadeeri police station in the Sana’a governorate. Al-Shaor told us they were threatened during their trip to the Al-Jadeeri police station. They were
That night, Thekra Al-Senedar, another female leader in the party, was detained while she was participating in a protest in front of the police station to demand the release of Al-Salam, Al-Hajj and Harba.
“Only in the evening did we find out that several people had come to ask about us, but they were lied to,” says Al-Shaor. “Suddenly, we heard Thekra Al-Senedar shouting.
She was fighting with some militants who were preventing her from entering the station.
Ummet Al-Salam called to her and she knew where we were. Without her, our families would not have known and we would have disappeared. Following the protest, which pressured the militia, policewomen came to our place to document what happened.
Then, we were released.”
3. People with Special Needs Our team recorded three abductions of persons with special needs committed by Houthi militias and pro-Saleh forces. On the afternoon of Sunday, 21 September, 2014, Houthi militias kidnapped a blind man from the middle of the Assiteen Al-Garbi neighborhood in Sana’a, on his way home in the Mathbah area. They drove him to the city of Omran, where he was detained for three days, after interrogating him on charges of fighting against them during their invasion of the capital.
The team also received a report from the family of Mohammed Ismael, who lives in the village of Asharaf in the Al-Bashamssiya area, saying the militias kidnapped their son, who has psychosis. Ismael was badly beaten after being charged with spying for the Arab Alliance.
In Thamar governorate, a medical source in the public hospital told our research team that among persons by Houthi-affiliated militias and used as human shields was Abed Al-Kareem Mohammed Ahmed Rajih Addabiani, a 21-year-old with a motor disability.
One of Addabiani’s relatives said the youth was being treated in the hospital after a traffic accident that caused partial paralysis. The militants took him to an unknown place and tortured; he was hit on his breast with rifle butts and a gun was deliberately shot near his head. Later, he was transferred to a police school, where he was used along with other kidnapped persons as a human shield.
10 In his statement to our team, Addabiani said, “I was detained by Houthi militias after they found that I had promotional materials calling for national unity of the Hidaa tribe.
They imprisoned me in the Thamar prison, in a dirty, 2 meter by 2 meter cell where I could not see anything outside or distinguish day from the night. “I remained in the cell in darkness. I ate and peed in the same cell, and the food was so rotten nobody could eat it,” he said.
During the interrogation, the detective held a dagger and tortured him with electricity.
“They wanted to know who was in charge of the unity campaign and the names of its supporters,” he added. “They threatened me, saying they would torture me if I didn’t give them anything.”
4. Academics The statistics collected by our team show that up to 65 percent of the persons kidnapped by the Houthi militias or Saleh‘s forces are university students and graduates. Twelve of the abducted are professors who actively opposed the coup that deposed Hadi.
On May 11, 2015, the Houthi and Saleh militias kidnapped Abdul Jaleel Said Al-Hameeri, who holds a doctorate in planning. On April 18, 2015, they abducted Abdul Majeed Al-Mikhlafi, professor of economics at Sana’a University’s Commerce College.
Both were still being detained upon publication of this report.
In July, the Houthis kidnapped Abdullah Ahmed Yahiya Athayafi, professor of education at Taiz University and the head of the civil peace unit, on his way home from Friday prayers in the Ajjahmaliah area of Taiz Governorate. He remained under arrest for five days.
On the morning of Sunday, 23 August, a number of Houthis kidnapped five professors, including Mohammed Athahri, a professor of political science who is head of the Sana’a Government University campus and faculty union. They also abducted professors from the same university, Adnan Al-Maqdari, Abdulla Al-Faqih, Ali Saif Klieb and Saleh Al-Hammasi.
Earlier in the same month, on 9 August, the Houthi militia kidnapped four academics, including, Abed Al-Raziq Al-Ashwal, associate professor at Sana’a University; Abdullah Saleh Assamawi, head of the Pathology Department for the same university’s Col
In October, at Sana’a University, the faculty union reported that, “Armed groups belonging to the Houthi movement invaded the campus of our Commerce and Economics College and a number of faculty members were beaten while they were holding a sit-in in solidarity with their colleague Professor Abed Al-Majeed Al-Mikhlafi, who was kidnapped and held for more than four months.”
5. Journalists Since seizing control of Omran Governorate in July of 2014, the Houthis and Saleh’s forces have targeted journalists in retaliation for documenting and opposing their policies and human rights violations. Journalists were kidnapped, tortured and/or forcedly disappeared. Most of these instances occurred during January and February of 2015, with 34 cameramen and correspondents for local and international media kidnapped in Sana’a alone.