Yemen has been experiencing a rise in the number of abductions, especially in its southern region and some central areas where militant Houthis have the upper hand. Since the fall of the former regime in 2011, chaos has taken over in Yemen.
On 21 September, 2014, the chaos became worse when the capital Sana’a was seized by the Houthis and some of the armed groups affiliated with the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Co-authored by the Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and the Yemeni Alliance for Human Rights-Peace Winds, this report documents abductions of individuals by the Houthi militias and allied armed groups in 17 Yemeni governorates. It also highlights the violations that usually follow these abductions, such as use of individuals as human shields and disappearance without trace or acknowledgement.
Among those targeted are political opponents, human rights activists and journalists. These crimes accelerated beginning in June 2014 and have continued through the date of this publication. This report is the first of its kind to address the crimes of abduction and enforced disappearance perpetrated in Yemen by the Houthis and their allies. It relies on specific, statistical evidence, as well as eyewitness testimony. Abduction in this report refers to cases in which armed groups seize individuals and deprive them of their freedom without proper authorization. Forced disappearance is 4 defined in Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as when this deprivation of liberty is committed under the cloak of total secrecy by agents of the state or entities acting with state authorization or support.
In Article 7 of the Rome Statute, the definition is broadened to include perpetrators who are not sponsored by the state in any way, and enforced disappearance is labeled a crime against humanity. Abduction and enforced disappearance are particularly heinous crimes because both the victims and their families are subjected to prolonged punishment. Relatives have no idea whether their loved ones are dead or alive, or—if alive—the nature of their circumstances. Forced disappearance does not allow legal protection, family visits or implementation of any standards of safety.
This report concludes these crimes are commonly practiced by the Houthis and the allied armed groups. The majority of the cases occurred following the March 2015 announcement by the Arab Coalition a war against the perpetrators of the coup that ousted Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. In just one week after the launch of the war, about 1,000 individuals were abducted. Significant risk was assumed by the staff who prepared this report on behalf of Euro-Med and the Yemeni Coalition.
Field investigators worked in extraordinary circumstances, placing their lives in danger as they moved from one place to another despite the widespread bombing, shelling and firing. Likewise, victims’ families often hesitated and even refused to give information because they were fearful of angering the kidnappers. Field investigators were distributed according to their places of residence. Interviews with families and other eyewitnesses, conducted both by phone and in person, were the main source of information.
However, each case then was investigated independently and the results were compared and analyzed to ensure their authenticity. We publish this report to lay the groundwork for justice in Yemen. We hope the international community, led by the UN Security Council, and the different Yemeni actors will act urgently to staunch the bleeding and bring the perpetrators of this suffering to justice.
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