Houthi militias and supporters of Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh have established about 480 secret prisons to detain and hide prisoners across Yemeni governorates under their control.
According to a recent report by the National Committee for Human Rights in Yemen, prisoners are subjected to severe torture, which includes mock executions and burning them.
The report stated that several government and private buildings were transformed into secret prisons and penitentiaries by militias, including 227 government buildings, 27 medical institutions, 49 universities, 99 schools, 25 sports clubs, 47 judicial buildings and 10 private houses.
There were 16,804 cases of arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearances committed by Houthi militias and ousted Saleh forces, all of which were civilians, according to the report.
Several international organizations including Amnesty International have demonstrated such cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance by the militias in their reports.
Following field visits, the National Committee for Human Rights in Yemen has reported that some detainees who were released after their arbitrary detention are suffering from poor psychological and physical health due to severe torture.
The released prisoners said the forces of Saleh and Houthi militias forced them to confess to crimes they did not commit.
The Houthis forced 99 percent of the released detainees to sign written pledges and papers to prevent them from engaging in any political rights, international or social activities that work against them.
If these pledges are violated, the militias will have the right to kill the detainee and his family, or confiscate his money and property.
Houthis have the secret penitentiaries under tight security, with access to only those in charge, as they have imprisoned prominent figures as well. Guards have to hide their identities so that they can prevent themselves from being identified in the future by any party.
The militias also abducted children from schools and forced them to engage in military actions. Alliance forces to support legitimacy in Yemen recently handed over 52 children who were recruited on the Yemen-Saudi borders after coordinated action with a number of international organizations such as the Red Cross and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Published on Arab News' website on April 2017.