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Yemeni prisoners say UAE officers sexually torture them: AP

Wednesday, 20 June 2018 06:23

By Agencies

United Arab Emirates officers tortured detainees in 18 secret prisons in Yemen, an AP news agency investigation finds.

The 15 officers who arrived at the prison in southern Yemen hid their faces behind head dresses, but their accents were clearly foreign -  from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

They lined up the detainees and ordered them to undress and lie down. The officers then searched the anal cavity of each prisoner, claiming that they were looking for contraband mobile phones.

The men screamed and wept. Those who resisted were threatened by barking dogs and beaten until they bled.

Hundreds of detainees suffered similar sexual abuse during the event on March 10 at Beir Ahmed prison in the southern city of Aden, according to seven witnesses interviewed by the Associated Press news agency.

Descriptions of the mass abuse offer a window into a world of rampant sexual torture and impunity in UAE-controlled prisons in Yemen.

The UAE is a key United States ally whose secret prisons and widespread torture were exposed by an AP investigation last June.

The news agency has since identified at least five prisons where security forces use sexual torture to brutalise and break inmates.

The AP first asked the Pentagon about grave rights abuses committed by the UAE one year ago.

But despite well-documented reports of torture reported by the AP, human rights groups and even the United Nations (UN), Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that the US has seen no evidence of detainee abuse in Yemen. 

"US forces are required to report credible allegations of detainee abuse," he said.

"We have received no credible allegations that would substantiate the allegations put forth in your line of question/story."

US officials have acknowledged that American forces receive intelligence from UAE partners and have participated in interrogations in Yemen.

But Rankine-Galloway said he could not comment on intelligence sharing with partners.

"Department of Defense personnel are expected to adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct," he said.

UAE officials did not respond to requests for comment.

In Yemen's three-year civil war, UAE forces that are purportedly fighting on behalf of Yemen's government have overtaken wide swaths of territory, towns and cities in the south.

They have swept up hundreds of men into a network of at least 18 hidden prisons on suspicion of being al-Qaeda or ISIL fighters. The prisoners are held without charges or trials.

Witnesses said Yemeni guards working under the direction of Emirati officers have used various methods of sexual torture and humiliation.

They raped detainees while other guards filmed the assaults. They electrocuted prisoners' genitals or hung rocks from their testicles. They sexually violated others with wooden and steel poles.

"They strip you naked, then tie your hands to a steel pole from the right and the left so you are spread open in front of them. Then the sodomising starts," said one father of four.

From inside the prison in Aden, detainees smuggled letters and drawings to the AP about the sexual abuse. The drawings were made on plastic plates with blue ink pen.

The artist told the AP that he was arrested last year and has been in three different prisons. "They tortured me without even accusing me of anything. Sometimes I wish they would give me a charge so I can confess and end this pain," he said.

"The worst thing about it is that I wish for death every day and I can't find it."

He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of further abuse.

The drawings show a man hanging naked from chains while he is being electrocuted, another inmate on the floor surrounded by snarling dogs as several people kick him, and graphic depictions of anal rape.

"Naked after beating," one Arabic caption says. Another drawing shows a man's rectum being forced open.

"This is how they search the prisoners," the caption reads.

Of the five prisons where the AP found sexual torture, four are in Aden, according to three Yemeni security and military officials who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

One is at the Buriqa base - the headquarters for the Emirati forces. A second is at the house of Shallal Shaye, the Aden security chief closely allied with the UAE, and a third is at a nightclub-turned-prison called Wadah. The fourth is at Beir Ahmed, where the March atrocities occurred.

US personnel have been seen at the Buriqa base, along with Colombian mercenaries, according to two prisoners and two security officials.

The detainees could not say whether the Americans, some of whom wear military uniforms, are members of the US government or mercenaries.

Yemen's war began in 2015, after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took over much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, and forced out the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Saudi-led coalition, armed and backed by the United States, has sought to bomb the rebels into submission with a relentless air campaign in support of the Hadi government.

But it is the UAE that has taken the lead in southern Yemen.

'You are killing my dignity'

The humiliation of the entire prison population in March may have been triggered by a series of hunger strikes among prisoners, who are held for months or years.

At least 70 detainees were ordered to be released earlier this year by state prosecutors but most remain in detention.

The Yemeni government has said that it has no control over the UAE-run prisons and Hadi has ordered an investigation into reports of torture.

The incident in March began when soldiers opened cells at 8am, ordered all detainees out to the prison yard, then lined them up and forced them to stand under the sun till noon.

When the Emirati force arrived, the detainees were blind-folded, handcuffed and led in groups or individually into a room where the Emiratis were present.

The Emiratis told them to undress and lie down. The UAE officers then spread their legs open, touched their genitals and probed their rectums.

"You are killing my dignity," one prisoner was heard crying. A second screamed to the Emiratis, "Did you come to liberate us or strip our clothes off?"

The Emiratis shouted back: "This is our job!"

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