Coronavirus and Torture – The Duality of Death Hangs Over Houthi Detention Centers

Abdullah Al-Aghbary, a new victim of torture in a Houthi prison, is prompting more people to call for investigating the conditions in those detention centers, especially with high rates of murder during interrogation sessions, according to what was confirmed by Amer Al-Damiri, a human rights activist. Damiri points out that “human rights societies operating in Yemen have documented the killing of at least 200 Yemeni detainees in Houthi prisons until the beginning of 2020.”

Social media were buzzing with the death of Al-Aghbary, 19, after going under a 6-hours torture session that led to his death. The murder was described as a warning bell, revealing what the Yemeni detainees are subjected to in Houthi prisons.

Official Statements and Statistics

In conjunction with the escalating controversy on social media over the death of Al-Aghbary, the Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muammar Al-Eryani, considers the killings of detainees as an indication of the security chaos and violence used by Iranian-backed militia members, pointing out that the number of victims dying under torture has incredibly increased, which turned the Houthi-controlled areas into a large prison and a place for practicing terrorism and organized crime against civilians.

Activists posted a footage, showing the young man being tortured by five Houthi militia gunmen. The circulated footage indicates that Al-Aghbary was likely subjected to a field execution by cutting his vein after six hours of continuous torture.

Commenting on the video, the human rights activist Hussam Abdul-Rahman said to MENA Research and Study Centre that what the video showed is no more than a small part of what detainees are exposed to in Houthi prisons, especially that dozens of similar crimes were documented, where civilians suffer the same torturing practices during interrogation sessions. Hussam revealed last month, that Houthi gunmen cut the body of a teacher, whose name was Muhammad Abdullah Salba in the city of Hajjah (in pieces, to death?).

Abdul-Rahman explained that most of the detainees in Houthi prisons were kidnapped at checkpoints deployed in militia-controlled areas, either because of personal differences with a militia member or because they don’t pay the taxes and fees imposed by the militias. He noted that human rights committees documented the presence of 18,000 Yemeni detainees in Houthi prisons as of last June.

The Association of the Mothers of Yemeni Detainees has warned previously of a great danger threatening the lives of detainees in prisons, especially with the militias preventing the families of hundreds of detainees from visiting or communicating with them.

Duality of Death

Speaking about the Houthi detention centers, Rami Al-Hilali, a security expert, points out that the danger is not limited to the torture sessions, but it also lies in the outbreak of the Corona epidemic. He explains that the lack of health care in all prisons makes Corona a new death factor surrounding the detainees, especially as the cells are overcrowded.

In the same context, Al-Hilali warns that the prisons of the capital Sana’a have become an epicenter for the Coronavirus, especially since the number of detainees in the capital alone reached about 8,000 detainees until the beginning of last August, creating a situation of severe overcrowding, as prisoners are distributed to only 5 or 6 prisons in the capital.

At the end of last April, the Yemeni authorities had documented the first cases of infection with the Coronavirus in Yemen, amid accusations made by UN health organizations against the Houthi militias of concealing the real statistics about the true number s of infections in their areas of control.

Abdul-Rahman explains that the Houthi authorities are holding detainees in about 30 prisons in several areas under their control. He described these detention centers as human slaughterhouses, in which prisoners lack all their legal and health rights, and they are deprived of their basic rights to communicate with their families.

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