CAIRO, Egypt — An international rights group on Thursday called for an investigation into alleged disappearances, torture and possible deaths in detention facilities run by the United Arab Emirates and its allied militias in southern Yemen as potential war crimes.
Amnesty International’s call comes months after The Associated Press reported that the UAE and allied militias were running a network of secret detention facilities where torture and abuses were widespread, outside the control of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.
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In a report titled “God only knows if he’s alive,” Amnesty said it documented “egregious violations going unchecked, including systemic enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment amounting to war crimes.”
The UAE issued a statement Thursday promptly rejecting Amnesty’s report, describing it as “politically motivated to undermine” Emirati efforts as part of the Saudi-led coalition in support of the Yemeni government.
In Yemen’s 3-year-old civil war, the UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition battling Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis who have taken over most of the country’s north. Ostensibly, the Emiratis and Hadi’s government are allies in the fight, but tensions between them have been high.
The UAE has built up militias across southern Yemen that government officials say are only loyal to the Emiratis. Those forces have taken over wide swaths of territory in the south, including towns and cities.
Amnesty said that these militias were “created, trained, equipped and financed” by the UAE and are “operating outside the command of their own government.” The Emiratis, it added, have also built alliances with Yemeni security officials that bypass the Yemeni government.