HRW: UAE-Backed Mercenaries Tortured Yemeni Journalist
By Staff, Agencies
The so-called Southern Transitional Council [STC] militants, backed by the United Arab Emirates [UAE], have arbitrarily detained and possibly tortured a Yemeni journalist since last September, the Human Rights Watch says.
The Emirati-backed mercenaries have chained, threatened, and beat Adel al-Hasani to make him confess to using his work as a journalist to spy for foreign countries, a source close to the journalist said.
The Human Rights Watch and Mwatana for Human Rights both urged STC militants to immediately and unconditionally release al-Hasani.
They also urged the STC authorities to investigate and take action against those responsible for torturing or otherwise ill-treating al-Hasani.
“More and more journalists across Yemen are subjected to threats, intimidation, violence, or detention simply for doing their jobs reporting on the country,” said Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The Southern Transitional Council’s deplorable treatment of Adel al-Hasani further stains the appalling rights record of the STC and their UAE backers,” said the researcher.
Human Rights Watch spoke with a source with direct knowledge of the circumstances of al-Hasani’s detention, as well as three of his relatives, his lawyer, and four journalist colleagues. The source said that on September 17, around midday, STC forces stopped al-Hasani in his car at Al-’Alam checkpoint, at the eastern entrance to the Aden governorate, and detained him.
They took him to Dofus checkpoint in Abyan governorate where they kept him for a few hours alone in a room for interrogation, chaining and beating him with rifle butts. The interrogators wore uniforms that indicated they were members of a pro-STC force known as the Support and Reinforcement Brigades, the source said.
They later transferred al-Hasani to a different unknown detention center, where they also interrogated and beat him, the source said. On September 19, the STC forces transferred Al-Hasani to Bir Ahmed, an informal detention facility in a military camp the STC controls in al-Buraika district in Aden and kept him in solitary confinement until October 11.
The source said that the room in Bir Ahmed where al-Hasani was detained was filthy and did not have a toilet or drinking water access. During interrogation sessions, STC security personnel repeatedly threatened to kill al-Hasani’s family if he did not confess to spying for foreign countries and groups. Later, on an unspecified date, the STC personnel forced al-Hasani to sign a document admitting that he was a spy.
Relatives of al-Hasani told Human Rights Watch that they received no information about him for 25 days after his arrest despite searching and asking about him in police stations and detention centers in Aden. They said that STC authorities denied that they were holding him, thus forcibly disappearing him. His relatives learned where he was only after he was transferred to al-Mansoura.
Al-Hasani, 35, is an investigative journalist, producer, and fixer for international journalists, based in the southern port city of Aden. In 2009, he co-founded the news website, Aden al-Ghad, which covers current affairs in Aden and across Yemen. Over the course of the Yemen war, he has worked with international freelance reporters and major media outlets, such as the BBC, CNN, Vice, and others.
He worked directly with CNN reporters who revealed in 2019 that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had transferred weapons purchased from the United States to al-Qaeda-linked forces, extremist forces, and other armed groups in Yemen, in violation of Saudi and UAE agreements with the US. The CNN report, for which al-Hasani was listed as a producer, received nominations for two News and Documentary Emmy awards in late 2020.
Human Rights Watch has documented numerous abuses by UAE-backed security forces in southern Yemen, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and inhumane detention conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a September 2020 report, the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen found that the UAE was continuing its air operations and support for local Yemeni forces on the ground in southern Yemen, despite apparently withdrawing most of its ground troops in mid-2019.
“The UAE claims that it is no longer involved in the Yemeni armed conflict, but its backing of abusive local forces makes it responsible for their rampant abuses,” said Radhya Almutawakel, the chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights.
“The UAE should end its support of abusive forces. Facilitating the prompt release of al-Hasani would be a good place to start.”
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing Hadi’s government back to power.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project [ACLED], a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives for more than the past five years.
The Saudi regime has, however, failed to fulfill the objective of its deadly campaign.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.