Yemeni group: Houthi rebels hold, torture female detainees

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September Net – The Associated Press

Yemen’s Houthi rebels hold dozens of women without bringing them to trial or charging them with a crime, often torturing the detainees and blackmailing their families, activists said on Thursday.

The allegations were first raised over the weekend by the Yemen Organization for Combating Human Trafficking, based in the capital, Sanaa. The group’s founder, Nabil Fadel, told The Associated Press that he received information from families, former female detainees, and other sources showing that over the past months, the Houthis have been rounding up women over allegations of prostitution and collaboration with the Saudi-led coalition, which is at war with the rebels.

A Yemeni rights lawyer on Thursday told the AP the women were rounded up from cafes and parks the past months. Speaking on condition of anonymity for fears for personal safety, he said their families are searching for their missing daughters.

The Yemeni anti-trafficking group said it obtained new information showing that the rebels were carrying out atrocities such as “abuse, torture, and forced disappearances of women and girls in secret and illegal prisons.”

The rebel leader, Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, had recently warned in televised speeches about a so-called “soft war” against the Houthis by their enemies, pointing to their “corrupt morals and sins.”

Fadel, of the anti-trafficking group, said the arrests started after the Houthi appointment a year ago of Sultan Zabin as head of the Sanaa criminal investigation division.

Zabin promptly launched a crackdown on prostitution and smuggling. Women who had been rounded up in the crackdown and subsequently granted release were sent to secret detentions in villas across the Yemeni capital, instead of being set free.

An AP investigation last month showed that thousands of Yemenis have been imprisoned by the Houthi militia during the four years of Yemen’s grinding civil war.

Many of them suffered extreme torture — being smashed in their faces with batons, hung from chains by their wrists or genitals for weeks at a time, and scorched with acid.

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