Ye­men panel to re­view re­port of de­tainee abuse

Sens. McCain and Reed seek clar­ity on U.S. mil­i­tary’s role in rebels’ in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

SANA, YE­MEN — Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment on Satur­day or­dered the cre­ation of a com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions after re­ports that U.S. mil­i­tary in­ter­roga­tors worked with forces from the United Arab Emi­rates who are ac­cused of tor­tur­ing de­tainees in Ye­men.

A copy of the or­der is­sued by Prime Min­is­ter Ahmed Obaid bin Daghr was ob­tained by the As­so­ci­ated Press. It said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would fo­cus on ar­eas lib­er­ated by gov­ern­ment forces from Shi­ite rebels known as the Houthis and their al­lies.

The re­ports of the abuses were re­vealed in an AP in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished Thurs­day. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­tailed a net­work of secret prisons across south­ern Ye­men where hun­dreds are de­tained in the hunt for Al Qaeda mil­i­tants. Amer­i­can de­fense of­fi­cials said U.S. forces have in­ter­ro­gated some de­tainees in Ye­men but de­nied any par­tic­i­pa­tion in, or knowl­edge of, hu­man rights abuses.

De­fense of­fi­cials told the AP that the de­part­ment had looked into re­ports of tor­ture and con­cluded that its per­son­nel were not in­volved or aware of any abuses.

The 18 lock­ups cited in the AP re­port are run by the UAE and by Ye­meni forces it cre­ated, ac­cord­ing to ac­counts from for­mer de­tainees, fam­i­lies of prison­ers, civil rights lawyers and Ye­meni mil­i­tary of­fi­cials.

At the Riyan air­port in the south­ern Ye­meni city of Mukalla, for­mer in­mates de­scribed ship­ping con­tain­ers smeared with fe­ces and crammed with blind­folded de­tainees.

They said they were beaten, roasted alive on a spit and sex­u­ally as­saulted, among other abuses. One wit­ness, who is a mem­ber of a Ye­meni se­cu­rity force, said U.S. forces were at times only yards away.

The UAE Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs said in a state­ment Fri­day that the al­le­ga­tions are “com­pletely un­true” and a “po­lit­i­cal game” by Ye­meni mili­tias to dis­credit a Saudi-led coali­tion, which in­cludes the UAE, that has been fight­ing since 2015 on the side of the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment against the rebels. It says it does not run or over­see any prisons in Ye­men and that any such fa­cil­i­ties are un­der “the ju­ris­dic­tion of the le­git­i­mate Ye­meni au­thor­i­ties.”

In Wash­ing­ton, pres­sure has been mount­ing on the U.S. De­fense De­part­ment after mul­ti­ple U.S. sen­a­tors called for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the re­ports, with John McCain (R-Ariz.), chair­man of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, and the rank­ing Demo­crat, Jack Reed of Rhode Is­land, calling the re­ports “deeply dis­turb­ing.”

McCain and Reed of wrote a let­ter to De­fense Sec­re­tary James N. Mat­tis on Fri­day re­quest­ing an ur­gent re­view of the re­ported abuses and what U.S. forces knew.

“Even the sug­ges­tion that the United States tol­er­ates tor­ture by our for­eign part­ners com­pro­mises our na­tional se­cu­rity mis­sion by un­der­min­ing the moral prin­ci­ple that dis­tin­guishes us from our en­e­mies — our be­lief that all peo­ple pos­sess ba­sic hu­man rights,” the sen­a­tors wrote Mat­tis. “We are con­fi­dent that you find these al­le­ga­tions as ex­tremely trou­bling as we do.”

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