Torture and killings rife in Yemen: watchdog

The United Nations Committee against Torture called on Yemen to end the widespread torture of detainees and investigate allegations of unlawful killings by its security forces.
It voiced concern at reports of grave violations “committed in the context of (Yemen’s) fight against terrorism”. They included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, mass arrests, indefinite detention without charge or trial, torture, and the deporting of foreigners to states where they may face torture.

Political activists, journalists and rights defenders have been arrested arbitrarily and held incommunicado during fighting between the army and Shi’ite rebels which began in August, the committee said.

The rebels say they suffer religious, economic and social marginalisation and neglect.

Their Nov. 3 cross-border raid into Saudi Arabia, the top oil exporter CLc1, has raised concern about the wider impact of instability in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest nations.

Allegations of torture in Yemen are seldom investigated or prosecuted and there appears to be “a climate of impunity” for the perpetrators, the UN body said.
“The committee expresses its grave concern at allegations of extrajudicial killings by security forces and other serious human rights violations in different parts of the country, in particular the northern Saada province and the south of the country,” it said.

The committee’s recommendations were issued after its 10 independent experts examined the records of seven countries including Yemen at a three-week meeting which ended last Friday.

Detainees are frequently held incommunicado in Yemen for prolonged periods without judicial process, it said.

Children as young as seven or eight are jailed and girls of about the same age have been forced into marriage, it said.

It urged Yemen to raise the legal age for marriage to 18 from the current 15 for girls and to ensure that the death penalty is not imposed on anyone under 18.
“We have strongly urged Yemen not to sentence children to the death penalty nor execute children because we have had reports that it happens,” committee member Nora Sveaass told a news briefing.

Relatives of alleged criminals, including children, are sometimes held as “hostages, sometimes for years at a time” in order to compel suspects to surrender, the committee said.

The UN body said it regretted the fact that Yemen had failed to send a delegation to the meeting, and invited the government to submit written comments.