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Houthi ‘abuses’ stir Human Rights Watch concerns

Houthi militants react as they ride on a truck after Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed, in Sanaa, Yemen, on December 4, 2017. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
DUBAI: Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Thursday it was concerned that Yemen’s Houthi militias were carrying out “abusive practices” against former allies — loyalists of slain ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh — and civilians.
The Houthis gunned down Saleh on Monday, and the Iran-backed insurgents have since consolidated their grip on the capital.
“The Houthis should remember that the killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh does not negate their obligations under international law, nor to civilians in areas under their control,” HRW’s Yemen researcher Kristine Beckerle told AFP.
Beckerle said the actions of the Houthis fit a pattern — documented by HRW since the group took over Sanaa in 2014 — of arbitrary detentions and forcible disappearances against critical voices, notably activists and journalists.
“Troubling reports from Sanaa over the last few days indicate the Houthis are again engaging in these abusive practices,” she said.
Members of Saleh’s political party said the Houthis have rounded up hundreds of suspected loyalists, including his family members. Reports of summary executions could not immediately be confirmed.
Tribal chiefs in at least four provinces have been summoned to pledge allegiance to the Houthis, and the crackdown has also targeted local journalists.
Saleh’s body remained at a military hospital in Sanaa while the Houthis and members of his party sparred over burial plans, sources close to the family said.
The sources said the Houthis had demanded that Saleh’s body be buried in a family ceremony at his home village of Sanhan, south of Sanaa, while the family was insisting that the Houthis hand over the body without any conditions.
On Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists as well as Reporters Without Borders urged the Houthis to immediately release 41 staff of Yemen Today, a pro-Saleh television station.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition scored its first major gains in Yemen since Saleh was killed when local fighters captured an area on the Red Sea coast from Houthi militias, residents said on Thursday.
Residents said southern Yemeni fighters and allied local forces captured Al-Khoukha district located some 350 km southwest of Sanaa after heavy fighting over Wednesday night which also involved coalition forces. At least 25 people were killed.
Residents said fighters known as the Southern Resistance, together with other local forces and backed by coalition advisers from the UAE, launched attacks on Al-Khoukha on Wednesday.

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