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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                      

Republic of Yemen

Arbitrary detention is common, with hundreds of cases documented in recent years. Many amount to enforced disappearances, with no available information about the victims’ status or location.

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Yemen

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Yemen.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Yemen

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 12 August 2021]


In September the UN Human Rights Council Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (UN Group of Experts) report stated it believed that parties to the conflict were continuing to engage in enforced disappearances. There were reports of politically motivated disappearances and kidnappings by both ROYG and Houthi forces of individuals associated with political parties, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and media outlets critical of the ROYG or the Houthi movement (see section 1.g, Abuses in Internal Conflict). The Houthis and their allies sometimes detained civilian family members of ROYG security officials. The Houthis targeted and detained foreigners, including those believed to be working for foreign diplomatic missions. There were also reports of disappearances carried out by other parties to the conflict.

From August 2019 to July 31, the ROYG’s National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights (NCIAVHR) documented 1,298 cases of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances committed by various parties to the conflict, a 400 percent increase over the previous year

The Aden branch of the Mothers of the Abducted Association issued a statement in August stating that association members continued searching for 38 forcibly disappeared individuals; their fate and medical condition and those responsible for their disappearances were unknown.


The UN and human rights organizations continued to report that torture and other forms of mistreatment were common in ROYG-, Houthi-, and Emirati-controlled detention facilities. The UN Group of Experts reported abuses in detention included sexual violence, prolonged solitary confinement, electric shock, burning, and other forms of torture (see section 1.g., Abuses in Internal Conflict.).

According to the July report by the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, from May 2016 to April, the ROYG was responsible for 65 incidents of torture; the Houthis were responsible for 138 incidents of torture, including 27 deaths in detention centers; and UAE forces and UAE-aligned armed groups, including the STC, were responsible for 141 incidents of torture, including 25 deaths in detention centers.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 16 May 2020]


Arbitrary detention is common, with hundreds of cases documented in recent years. Many amount to enforced disappearances, with no available information about the victims’ status or location. Detainees are often held at unofficial detention sites. As with other state institutions, security and intelligence agencies like the Political Security Organization have been split into parallel Houthi- and Hadi-controlled structures, with each operating in territory controlled by its side in the civil war. In areas that lie within the UAE’s sphere of influence in southern Yemen, Emirati special forces have been accused of operating a network of secret prisons and detention centers where torture is said to be rife.

Yemen: Prolonged detention and torture of 10 journalists illustrates risks faced by media workers

Amnesty International (AI), 1 May 2019

[accessed 8 May 2019]

The 10 journalists have been held since the summer of 2015 and are being prosecuted on trumped-up spying charges for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Over the course of their detention the men have been forcibly disappeared, held in intermittent incommunicado detention, been deprived of access to medical care and suffered torture and other ill-treatment. In one recent incident, on 19 April a prison warden entered their cell at night, stripped off their clothing and brutally beat them, according to trusted sources. They have been held in solitary confinement since that day.

Report Points to Mass Torture in UAE-Run Prisons in South Yemen

Financial Tribune, 14 August 2018

[accessed 15 August 2018]

[accessed 15 August 2018]

The report—which was provided by Yemeni military figures who worked with the Saudi-UAE coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi forces—described scenes of sexual abuse by Emirati army personnel and their Yemeni surrogates.

Individuals endured rape at the hands of coalition forces and were subjected to electrocution in the genitals, chest and armpits. Some detainees were hung in midair while being insulted and beaten, the report said.

Electric cables were used alongside wooden bats and steel poles during the interrogation sessions.

In some instances, the detainees are described as having been deprived of sleep and confined to narrow spaces with poor hygienic conditions and limited air ventilation.

For some, this was accompanied by sessions where their skins were lashed with whips and their wounds were subsequently covered in salt. Others had industrial nails inserted into their finger and toenails.

The report alleged more than 49 people died as a result of the torture and five gravesites were used to bury the deceased.

The account confirms a report by the Associated Press published in June over alleged acts of torture perpetrated by members of the Saudi-UAE coalition in a network of at least 18 secret prisons.

Tales of torture and horror: Inside Houthi prisons in Yemen

Arwa Ibrahim, Al Jazeera, 10 June 2018

[accessed 10 June 2018]

"I spent 50 days in an underground prison with barely any oxygen. I was hung by my wrists from the ceiling and left in my own faeces and urine to rot. I wasn't allowed to wash once.   "They extracted my fingernails and used a cable to press onto the flesh underneath. I lost consciousness from the sheer amount of pain."   "They burned me with fire and dipped me in water that they'd run an electric current through. They beat me with all sorts of electric cables and iron rods," explains Baakar, who says he saw nails, dead animals and body parts at some of the detention centres while he was imprisoned.

"I saw detainees chained to the walls. They were bleeding around their feet, and their wounds from the chains had become infected with puss and worms.   "One guy had been hung from his penis; he couldn't urinate for two whole weeks. When I saw him, I knew that was the end of his manhood," says Baakar, who claims that he was punished for trying to treat some of the detainees during his imprisonment.

Torture and suicide: The testimony of a Houthi captive

Fras Shmsan, Saudi Gazette, 11 April 2018

[accessed 15 April 2018]

As for the former detainee Jamal Al-Ma'amari, the doctor said: “When I was in prison, the Houthis brought Al-Ma’amari; he was my cellmate for three months. The last time I checked on him, they brought me to him from another cell, he was just a human mass, crying and in pain, he needed at least two detainees to help him, they would usually become physically and psychologically exhausted during a short period of time because it was difficult to care for him.”

“Members of the militia tortured Al-Ma’amari by burning him with cigarettes and electrocuting him; they cut off the nerves of his upper and lower left limb and ended up paralyzing him in his left side. That wasn’t enough for them; they tortured him by destroying his left testicle.”

UN report: All parties in Yemen committed torture

Middle East Monitor, 15 February 2018

[accessed 16 February 2018]

The 329-page report which was submitted to the Security Council on 26 January was made public yesterday. In it the publication a panel of Yemen experts concluded: “The Government of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Houthi-Saleh forces have all engaged in arbitrary arrests and detentions, carried out enforced disappearances and committed torture.”

Investigations in to 12 cases of detention by the United Arab Emirates in Burayqah, at the Al Rayyan airport led the experts to conclude that the UAE were responsible for torture, including imprisonment in metal cages, ill treatment, enforced disappearance of detainees and denial of due process.

The report confirmed the use of “starvation” as a weapon against the Yemenis by the Saudi-led coalition, which violated international law. But the blame was put on all sides of the conflict, which have violated international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


ACCOUNTABILITY - Yemen’s parliament voted in January 2012 to give former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his aides immunity from prosecution. In September 2012, however, Saleh’s successor, President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, decreed the creation of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate alleged rights abuses committed during the 2011 uprising, and recommend measures to hold perpetrators accountable and afford redress to victims. By November 2014, Hadi had still to nominate the inquiry’s commissioners and no progress had been achieved.

ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS - In the first half of 2014, the Freedom Foundation, a Yemeni organization that monitors press freedom, recorded 148 attacks affecting members of the media, ranging from verbal harassment and threats, confiscations, looting, destruction of property, and politicized prosecutions, to unlawful detention, and one killing. In 47 percent of the cases reported, the abuses were attributed to the government and its agents.

Al-Reemi Describes Brother’s Torture

Shady Yaseen, National Yemen, 8 Sept 2013

[accessed 8 Sept 2013]

The story of Ibrahim’s arrested revolves around a quarrel that occurred between Ibrahim and security forces after Ibrahim’s attempt to cross the barriers established around YALI. During the dispute, the soldiers accused Ibrahim of attempting to detonate a grenade in the vicinity of the Institute.  Some versions of the story say that the grenade belonged tone of the soldiers, though Saddam says that the soldiers created this charge to further implicate his brother.

With the police charges against him, Ibrahim was taken from his work to a criminal investigation, where he was exposed to several forms of torture.

When Saddam next saw his brother, “I couldn’t recognize him. He was pale and had difficulty talking. On his forehead was a huge bruise and his hands and feet were tied. …When we met, he didn’t say a word. After a few minutes, he began to talk with difficulty but didn’t seem to recognize us. He seemed as if he had lost the sense of himself.”

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/YEM/2 (2010)

[accessed 12 March 2013]

Impunity for acts of torture and ill-treatment

8. The Committee is deeply concerned at the numerous allegations, corroborated by a number of Yemeni and international sources, of a widespread practice of torture and ill -treatment of detainees in Yemeni prisons, including State security prisons run by the Public Security Department, the national security authority and the Department of Anti-Terrorism under the Ministry of the Interior. The Committee is further concerned that such allegations are seldom investigated and prosecuted, and that there appears to be a climate of impunity for perpetrators of acts of torture. In this respect, the Committee expresses its concern at article 26 of the code of criminal procedure, which appear to provide that criminal lawsuits may not be filed against a law enforcement officer or a public employee for any crime committed while carrying out his job or caused thereby, except with the permission of the General Prosecutor, a delegated public attorney or heads of prosecution, and at the lack of information on the application of this provision (arts. 2, 4, 12 and 16).

Fundamental legal safeguards

9. Notwithstanding the information provided in the replies to the list of issues and by the State party delegation, the Committee remains seriously concerned at the State party’s failure in practice to afford all detainees, including detainees held in State security prisons, with all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of their detention. Such safeguards comprise the right to have prompt access to a lawyer and an independent medical examination, to notify a relative, and to be informed of their rights at the time of detention, including about the charges laid against them, and to appear before a judge within a time limit in accordance with international standards. In this respect, the Committee is concerned at the statement in the State report (para. 203) that “persons in pretrial detention may meet with their relatives and lawyers, provided they obtain a written authorization from the body/entity that issued the detention order”. The Committee notes the information on record keeping provided in the replies to the list of issues but it remains concerned at the lack of a central register for all persons held in detention, including minors (arts. 2, 11 and 12).

Incommunicado detention

12. While noting that information was provided in the replies to the list of issues in respect of the Political Security Department, the Committee reiterates its concern at credible reports of the frequent practice of incommunicado detention by Political Security Department officials, including detention for prolonged periods without judicial process (CAT/C/CR/31/4, para. 6 (c)), and is concerned that other security agencies reportedly also engage in such practices. The Committee is also concerned at the lack of information on the exact number and location of places of detention in the State party (arts. 2 and 11).

Hostage-taking of relatives

14. Notwithstanding the statement provided by the State party delegation that hostage-taking is illegal in the country, the Committee expresses its great concern at the reported practice of holding relatives of alleged criminals, including children and elderly, as hostages, sometimes for years at a time, to compel the alleged criminals to surrender themselves to the police; it also emphasizes that such practice is a violation of the Convention. In this respect, the Committee notes with particular concern the case of Mohammed Al-Baadani, who was abducted in 2001, at age 14, by a tribal chief because of his father’s failure to pay back debts, and who reportedly remains in a State prison without a set trial date (arts. 12 and 16).

Allegations of extrajudicial killings

15. While noting the statement in the replies to the list of issues that extra-judicial, arbitrary or summary executions constitute violations of the Convention and the laws in force and are “unlikely to occur”, the Committee expresses its great 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 Sa’ada province and in the south (arts. 2, 12 and 16).

Complaints and prompt and impartial investigations

16. The Committee notes the information provided by the State party on its complaints system in its replies to the list of issues but it remains concerned at the apparent failure to investigate promptly and impartially the numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute alleged offenders. The Committee is particularly concerned at the lack of clarity of which authority has the overall responsibility for reviewing individual complaints of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement, security, military and prison officials, and for initiating investigations in such cases. The Committee also regrets the lack of information, including statistics, on the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment and results of all the proceedings, at both the penal and disciplinary levels, and their outcomes (arts. 11, 12 and 16).

Human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and other individuals at risk

20. The Committee notes with concern allegations, including in conjunction with recent events in the region of Sa’ada, indicating that many Government opponents, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, have been subjected to arbitrary detention and arrest, incommunicado detentions lasting anything from several days to several months, denied access to lawyers and the possibility of challenging the legality of their detention before the courts. The Committee regrets the lack of information provided on any investigations into such allegations (arts. 2, 12 and 16).

Coerced confessions

28. While noting that constitutional guarantees and provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure prohibit the admissibility of evidence obtained through torture, the Committee is concerned at reports of numerous cases of confession obtained through torture and at the lack of information on any officials who may have been prosecuted and punished for extracting such confessions (arts. 2 and 15).


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

The human rights situation improved during the transition that followed the 2011 uprising which ousted former President Saleh from power. However, there was an ongoing lack of information about the fate of those arrested or disappeared during 2011. Impunity for human rights violations committed during President Saleh’s government was entrenched by a new immunity law, and most killings of protesters and other human rights violations committed in 2011 and 2012 were not investigated. Justice was also denied to victims of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law during armed conflicts in parts of the country.

Over 20 people arbitrarily arrested during the 2011 uprising and subsequent protests remained in prison or were victims of enforced disappearance. Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be reported. In response to unrest in the South, security forces and groups linked to them used excessive force, killing at least a dozen people, and arbitrarily detained scores of people involved in protests or who supported secession of the South.

Ansar al-Shari’a (Partisans of al-Shari’a), an armed group linked to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that controlled parts of Abyan governorate until June, committed human rights abuses, including summary killings and amputations. A government military offensive to drive Ansar al-Shari’a out of cities under its control was marked by violations of human rights and international humanitarian law on both sides, resulting in civilian deaths. Women and girls continued to face discrimination in law and practice, and domestic violence.

Reports emerged of slavery in some parts of the country. The humanitarian situation reached crisis point. At least seven people were sentenced to death and at least 28 people were executed, including at least two juvenile offenders.


Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 5   Civil Liberties: 5   Status: Partly Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 17 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

Arbitrary detention occurs, partly because law enforcement officers lack proper training and senior government officials lack the political will to eliminate the problem. Security forces affiliated with the Political Security Office (PSO) and the Ministry of the Interior torture and abuse detainees, and torture remains a problem in PSO prisons, which are not closely monitored.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 17 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, members of the Political Security Office (PSO) and Ministry of Interior (MOI) police forces tortured and abused persons in detention. Authorities used force during interrogations, especially against those arrested for violent crimes. Although penal law permits amputations and physical punishment such as flogging for some crimes, which the government maintains is in accordance with Shari'a (Islamic law), there were no reports of amputations or floggings during the year.

The government acknowledged that torture occurred; however, it claimed that torture was not official policy. For the second consecutive year, journalists, government, and human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) officials reported that both instances and severity of torture in MOI prisons declined. In cases where there was torture, illiteracy, lack of training among police, corruption, and pressure from superiors to produce convictions usually played a role.

Torture continued to remain a problem in PSO prisons, which were not monitored by other government agencies. There were credible reports pointing to a preferred use of nonphysical abuse, such as sleep deprivation, cold water, and threats of sexual assault, as the primary form of torture in PSO prisons. In October two former PSO prisoners reported being repeatedly tortured and made to sleep without blankets in cold cells while being held without charge. There were reports that the MOI's Criminal Investigative Department (CID) routinely used torture to obtain confessions. On February 4, CID forces investigating a theft case in Dhamar governorate rounded up five suspects who were reportedly beaten during interrogation. One suspect confessed to the crime and was referred to the Attorney General's office for prosecution. The other four were released. Defense attorneys and some human rights NGOs observed that most confessions introduced as evidence against defendants in criminal courts were obtained through torture. Government sources vehemently denied this.

During the year approximately 14 police officials were disciplined or prosecuted for abuses. From those cases, seven officers were dismissed, and seven were referred to the courts for prosecution. Those cases remained pending at year's end.

On September 3, two MOI officers were put on trial for the 1999 torture-induced death of an Aden bombing suspect. Some human rights NGOs claimed that the defendants did not appear in court and were possibly being tried in abstentia. There was no further information on this case at year's end.

In October 2004 seven Taiz police officers who were on trial for the severe torture of a juvenile murder suspect had their case suspended after they failed to appear for court. At year's end it was reported that the officers were free and living in Taiz and that authorities refused to re-apprehend them. There was no further action on the case.

Throughout the year the government took effective steps to curb torture in MOI prisons. From February and to October, the government, in conjunction with a national human rights NGO, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the British government, trained over 340 MOI officers on the illegality of torture. Under the initiative, the same NGO printed and the government distributed a human rights guide for MOI officers. In the first week of July, 360 female officers completed similar training. The MOI, in conjunction with the Ministry of Human Rights (MHR), also intensified its monitoring of prison conditions around the country.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Yemen",, [accessed <date>]