AL-MUKALLA: Two Yemenis kidnapped by the Houthis died after being brutally tortured inside militia prisons, Yemeni human rights advocates and local media said on Saturday.
The deaths have sparked outrage, with demands for an inquiry to bring the killers to justice, and an acceleration of prisoner-exchange negotiations.
One of the victims, Munaser Al-Rasas, a Yemeni expatriate working in Saudi Arabia, is believed to have been abducted while returning to his family home in the central province of Al-Bayda to celebrate Eid Al-Adha last July.
A Houthi representative on Friday notified the family of his death, but gave no further details.
Yemeni activists and friends said that Al-Rasas was tortured by the Houthis in Sanaa, and that his captors ignored numerous requests from the family to release him or at least notify them of his location.
Activists also said that Hadi Hussein Salem Al-Shani, a Yemeni soldier, had died in a Houthi jail in the capital. The Houthis reportedly returned his remains to his family for burial over the weekend without providing any details about his death.
Al-Shani, a soldier from the 153 Infantry Brigade in Al-Bayda, was seized on the battlefield in the Al-Bayda Al-Malajem region three years ago and brought to Sanaa, where he was tortured.
The two are the most recently recorded victims of the Houthi’s brutal interrogation techniques in regions under their control, including Sanaa.
In November, the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedom said in a report that at least 4,200 people are being held in Houthi detention facilities.
The militia has executed 147 captives since late 2014, while 282 others have died as a result of negligence, the rights group said. A further 98 prisoners reportedly died within days of being released.
Yemeni rights organizations and activists are demanding the world exert greater pressure on the Houthis to halt these harsh practices.
“Torture inside the Houthi militia’s official and unofficial jails over the last eight years is one of the gravest breaches of international humanitarian law,” Mutahar Al-Badhiji, executive director of the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, told Arab News on Saturday.
He called for the activation of prisoner-exchange agreements and discussions for the release of thousands of war captives.
“Prisoner exchange is one of the Stockholm Agreement’s unresolved outcomes. This is a humanitarian issue that affects many people, whether they reside inside Houthi territory or in legitimate (government) territory, and it must be addressed from a humanitarian perspective, without political or military motivations,” Al-Badhiji said, referring to the UN-brokered agreement signed between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in the Swedish capital in 2018.
Other Yemeni activists, including Amat Al-Salam Al-Hajj, chairperson of the Abductees’ Mothers Association, an umbrella group representing thousands of female family members of civilian war captives, said that the news of detainees’ deaths is worrying for families who fear their loved ones may meet a similar fate.
“This news came as a shock to the mothers of the abductees, who are awaiting the death of their sons. Mothers, spouses and sons are all experiencing psychological distress,” she said.