AL-MUKALLA: The Yemeni government and activists have said that a Yemeni government soldier had died inside a Houthi detention facility, marking the third known example of a prisoner dying as a result of torture in less than a month.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government said the Houthis executed one of its incarcerated troops, while Yemeni activists raised worry over endemic severe abuse within Houthi detention facilities.
Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said on Saturday that the Houthis hanged 21-year-old Yemeni government soldier Mohammed Ahmed Wahban in Sanaa’s Military Prison three years after capturing him while fighting alongside Yemeni government forces on the Mas frontline in Marib’s central province of Marib.
A Houthi court sentenced Wahban, from the province of Amran, to death by firing squad in August 2022, accusing him of collaborating with the Yemeni army and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, the minister said, adding that the soldier, like hundreds of Yemenis held by the Houthis, was subjected to “brutal” psychological and physical torture and was denied medication.
The Yemeni soldier had gone on a hunger strike after being mistreated by the Houthis.
“We urge the International Committee of the Red Cross and international and local human rights groups to launch an open inquiry into the crimes of murdering and torturing captives, abductees, and individuals forcefully imprisoned in Houthi militia detention camps,” Al-Eryani said on social media platform X.
Yemeni activists and relatives said the Houthis phoned his family last week to notify them that Wahban committed suicide by hanging himself and asked them to get his remains from a military hospital in Sanaa.
Saleh Abdullah Wahban, a member of the soldier’s clan, said his mother sobbed every time she visited him in jail after discovering that the Houthis would kill him, but the family mistook this for intimidation by the militia.
“His mother would contact me every time she paid him a visit, sobbing and informing me that he had been sentenced to death. We considered this to be an instance of psychological torment,” Saleh said on his Facebook page.
Wahban’s death comes only days after Yemeni activists reported the death of Ezzedine Al-Habji Al-Humaigani, 28, in a Houthi detention camp in Sanaa, a year after the Houthis kidnapped him from his native region of Al-Bayda.
Late last month, the international charity Save the Children suspended its operations in northern Yemen to put pressure on the Houthis to explain the death of one of its employees in the militia’s detention facility in Sanaa. This incident drew condemnation from local and international rights groups, the EU, and the UK.
Rights organizations and activists have backed the Yemeni government’s request for investigations into the deaths of detainees held by the Houthis, as well as for foreign mediators, such as UN Yemen Envoy Hans Grundberg, to put pressure on the Houthis to cease torturing captives.
Zafaran Zaid, a Yemeni human rights activist and lawyer sentenced to death in absentia by a Houthi-run court in 2021, told Arab News on Sunday that the deaths of Yemeni soldiers and other prisoners in Houthi detention facilities are indicators of widespread torture inside Houthi-controlled detention facilities, noting that over 370 teachers, doctors, tribal leaders, soldiers, and other abductees died in Houthi custody due to torture.
“The Houthis have violated all conventions, charters, treaties, laws, and morality; they are killing Yemenis with impunity,” she said.