In May of this year, Amnesty International issued a report on the conditions of detainees and those forcibly disappeared in the prisons of the Houthi group. The report sheds light on the suffering of detainees and the conditions of their illegal detention, citing the statements of victims and witnesses, most of whom are prisoners of conscience and belief, where most of them have spent several years in prisons without trial without trial. Guilty and no charges are clear to them.
The report stated that, since its takeover of Sanaa and other areas in Yemen in 2014, the Houthi group has arbitrarily arrested dozens of journalists, social media activists, followers of the Baha’i religion, and others, simply for their peaceful criticism of their behavior, affiliation with an opposition political party, or their adoption of certain conscience-motivated beliefs. and their peaceful activities.
In all the cases investigated, the Houthi forces violated legal procedural integrity and did not respect international guarantees related to procedural rules. Houthi forces arrested individuals without a court order, did not inform the detainees of the reason for the arrest, and placed them in incommunicado prison and imprisoned them. Incommunicado for several weeks, and deprived the detainees of the right to seek legal counsel after their arrest and throughout the investigation period.
Arrest without charge
The report issued by Amnesty International stated that of the twelve former detainees interviewed by Amnesty International, ten of them have been charged and brought to court “at least two years” after their arrest. The other two were not given the right to see a judge or to challenge their detention for a period of two years. Former detainees told Amnesty International how they were kept in incommunicado prison; Then, in reality, they become forcibly disappeared, without providing any opportunity to contact the outside world while withholding any information about their fate or whereabouts from their families. The prison guards watched and listened to the conversations that took place between them and their relatives whenever they were allowed visits or phone calls.
In the testimony of a former detainee who was a government employee who was arrested by Houthi security forces from his home in Hodeidah following a work-related dispute, he told Amnesty International:
“On November 25, 2017, at 4 pm, the security forces knocked on my door. They told me that they were from the Political Security office and that I was wanted in the security branch to answer a few questions. They promised that it would take no more than two hours, after which they would send me back to my house. But the two hours turned into three years.”
Another witness from the Baha’i Faith, whose testimony was mentioned in the report, “where he said that he was arrested in Sana’a while on his way to attend a meeting on May 25, 2017, and said:“ A week before my arrest, the Public Prosecution office summoned me for interrogation, but I did not go based on Lawyer advice. One day I was walking down the road when two men in civilian clothes started walking next to me. They knew my name. Suddenly he pushed me into a cart.
I asked them who are you? One of them answered me that he is an Islamist. I was terrified because I thought that al-Qaeda had kidnapped me, but the second corrected him, saying that they were from the security forces, and then took me to the political security office building in Sanaa.”
Arrests for belief
The report stated that in all cases, the victims said that the Houthis, and the investigators who interrogated them, did not disclose the reason for their arrest. The interrogators’ questions and accusations mostly centered on profession, political affiliation, or religious beliefs.
According to the report, “the investigators’ comments indicated that they link anti-Houthi media reports, or any criticism of the Houthis’ behavior in this regard, and belonging to an opposition political party, with espionage, a crime that is mandatory for which the death penalty. In the case of followers of the Baha’i religion, the investigators were taking an aggressive stance, They show contempt for the Baha’i faith and its followers, accusing them of spying for the mere existence of Baha’i sects in Western countries and in Israel.
In many investigation cases, the accused is called an “infidel”.
Isolation from the outside world
Amnesty International’s report stated that “All the former detainees – journalists, government employees and followers of the Baha’i faith – who were arrested by the Houthis were imprisoned incommunicado for at least four months. They were also denied the right to a lawyer for two or three years, during which time they remained without Accusation or trial.
Ten of the former detainees whose testimonies documented in the report are mentioned said that the Houthi de facto authorities subjected them to enforced disappearance and locked them in secret locations and then refused to inform their families of their whereabouts, and refused to give them any information about the reasons or the legal basis for their imprisonment or the conditions they are imprisoned in, not to mention depriving the detainees of assistance lawyers or receive family visits.
Denial of contact and visits
The report cited the testimony of a journalist who was arrested by Houthi forces in June 2018 in connection with an opposition political party. He said, “The first phone call I had with my family was after four months and it took only five minutes. The Houthis did not allow me to disclose my whereabouts. After six months, they allowed me With another call, I was able to see them in the central prison. Then I was transferred to the informal Shamlan prison, where I could not call or see them for two months. My family at that time did not know where I was. The Houthis denied that I was detained by them.”
Another detainee said that he was allowed to contact his family for the first time five and a half months after his abduction, adding, “When the Political Security office knocked on my door to go with them for a few hours and answer some questions, I did not think to say goodbye to my family; I did not know that I would not speak to them again until after five months. ”So they were gone without saying goodbye.