Human Rights

Houthis sanctioned for 'serious human rights abuse'

By Al-Mashareq

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Fighters aligned with the Houthis stand guard in Sanaa on September 24th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP] 

Five Houthi "security officials", including Sultan Zabin, director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Sanaa, were on Thursday (December 10th) placed on the US blacklist for committing "serious human rights abuse".

The sanctions on key members of the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) were announced on International Human Rights Day, along with expanded sanctions on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and three Haitians, including a gang leader.

Houthi-controlled security and intelligence agencies in Yemen "have committed serious human rights abuse, engaging in the prevailing practice of the arbitrary detention and torture" of citizens, the US Treasury said.

"As we recognise International Human Rights Day, the US stands with innocent civilians around the globe who have been victims of violence and oppression," Treasury Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich said in a statement.

In Yemen, the Treasury said, students, women, human rights activists, journalists, humanitarian workers, perceived political opponents and members of the Bahai community have been targeted, illegally arrested and mistreated.

They have been interned in prisons run by the Houthi-controlled CID, National Security Bureau (NSB) and Political Security Organisation (PSO) and others.

Under the direction of their leaders, the NSB and PSO have been actively committing these abuses since late 2014, while the Sanaa CID has been doing so at least since 2018, the Treasury said.

Women imprisoned, tortured

As director of the Sanaa CID, Zabin and his officers have arrested, detained and tortured women "under the pretense of a policy designed to curb prostitution and organised crime", the Treasury said.

"In reality, this policy was used to target politically active women who opposed the Houthis, and resulted in numerous reported cases of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, sexual violence, rape [and] torture," it said.

Zabin was responsible for the implementation of this policy.

"He has had direct involvement in acts of rape, physical abuse, and arbitrary arrest and detention of women as part of a policy to inhibit or otherwise prevent political activities by women" who opposed the militia, the Treasury said.

Also facing sanctions is Abdul Hakim al-Khaiwani, deputy interior minister, who was responsible for many detention facilities and security forces, including the Sanaa CID, which operates under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.

He serves as director of the Security and Intelligence Service, a new security and intelligence agency that merged the PSO and NSB.

Under former NSB head Abdul Rahab Jarfan, the NSB "systematically engaged in torture and abusive detention of Yemeni citizens", the Treasury said.

Authority abused for personal gain

Deputy NSB head Motlaq Amer al-Marrani oversaw detainees of the NSB, who were reportedly subjected to torture and other mistreatment.

Al-Marrani also played a significant role in the arrest, detention and ill treatment of humanitarian workers and other authorities working on humanitarian assistance.

He was found to have abused his authority and influence over humanitarian access as leverage to generate personal profit.

Also facing sanctions is Qader al-Shami, former director of the PSO, which since the Houthis' coup of 2014 has been responsible for the regular practice of illegal detention and torture of prisoners, including children, the Treasury said.

PSO officials were found to have been keeping detainees in undisclosed locations, subjecting them to torture and not allowing them to communicate with their families, depriving them of their fundamental liberties.

There have been at least 30 people reported to have been sentenced to death following their detention by the PSO.

Earlier this week, the US Treasury sanctioned Iran's "ambassador to Yemen" Hassan Eyrlou, who is an officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Iran-based Al-Mustafa International University.

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