Al-MUKALLA, Yemen: The Iran-backed Houthis have abducted 16,804 civilians in territories under their control since the start of their coup against the internationally recognized government in late 2014, a Yemeni rights group said.
The Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedom said in a report that almost two-thirds of the 16,804 abductees were freed or executed by their captors, used as human shields, died in detention due to medical negligence or were used as part of prisoner swaps with the Yemeni government.
The organization said that the Houthis are still holding 4,201 civilians in known detention facilities in Sanaa, Ibb, Dhamar and other Yemeni provinces, in addition to 1,317 people, including 84 women and 76 children, who are believed to have been forcibly disappeared and tortured, though the Houthis deny holding them.
“Those are civilians taken by the Houthi militia from roadways, residences, workplaces, mosques, marketplaces, neighborhoods and other sites,” Mohammed Al-Omada, head of the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, told Arab News.
“In the report, we excluded military and security personnel, as well as popular resistance fighters who were kidnapped by the Houthis. Based on conversations with former inmates and families of prisoners, our human rights specialists validated each instance.”
The human rights activist said that the Houthis are keeping the majority of detainees in state prisons such as Political Security in Sanaa, Central Prison in Ibb province, Central Prison in Dhamar and Central Prison in Amran.
Other captives were imprisoned in the former homes of Houthi opponents in Sanaa, including the old residence — now a detention center — of Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer, the former vice president who fled the capital shortly after the militia invaded the city.
The Houthis have abducted 389 politicians, 464 activists, 340 media personnel, 176 children, 374 women, 512 tribal leaders and social dignitaries, 216 preachers and clerics, 154 academics, 217 students, 96 lawyers and judges in addition to hundreds of medics, government employees, foreigners and traders over the last eight years, according to the organization.
“During interrogation, many inmates endure beatings, abuse and humiliation,” the Yemeni organization said.
“Everyone who speaks to the security personnel in the building or makes any demands, including for medicine or a drink of water, is beaten and tortured, and some of them were tortured to death,” it added.
Among the 16,804 kidnapped civilians, the Houthis utilized 463 captives as human shields within military installations to deter the Arab coalition and Yemeni government from launching attacks. The militia executed 147 detainees inside detention facilities, and 282 captives died behind bars as a result of negligence.
Ninety-eight captives died just days after release by the Houthis.
“Following the Houthi militia’s takeover and control of the provinces, every family has a sad story about a prisoner or the Houthis raiding their homes or recruiting their children,” Al-Omada said.
The figures from the Yemeni organization came as another Yemeni group called for the release of a number of detainees kept by the Houthis. The captives had staged hunger strikes in order to put pressure on the militia to free them or improve their detention circumstances and stop the use of torture.
The Mothers of Abductees Association, an umbrella organization representing thousands of female relatives of civilian war prisoners, said it received an urgent request from the wife of prisoner Adel Tareq Al-Baydani, who fasted for two weeks in protest against indefinite detention and maltreatment, to save him from death.
“Al-Baydani’s wife appealed for her husband’s release, citing serious health circumstances and stating that the Houthi group threatened hunger strikers, including elderly people, with relocation to the prison’s basement if they did not terminate the strike,” the organization tweeted.