UAE-backed militia behind kidnappings in SE Yemen: Report


Bureau of Investigative Journalism says UAE-controlled group has taken hundreds of men to airbase, where their fates remain unknown

Emirati armed forces in a military show at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi earlier this year (AFP)
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Last update: 
Saturday 10 June 2017 8:34 UTC

The United Arab Emirates is responsible for hundreds of kidnappings and forced disappearances in southeast Yemen, according to a Bureau of Investigative Journalism report citing relatives and human rights activists.

Elite Forces, a militia controlled by the UAE, has kidnapped local men from their homes and taken them to al Riyyan airbase, leaving their families in the dark about their fates, the report said.

The abuses have taken place in the city of Mukalla, which was captured from al-Qaeda militants by UAE-led forces in April 2016.

The report, published on Thursday, corroborates UN findings in January that shed light on forced disappearances in southeast Yemen, where UAE forces are active.

The UAE is a part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting against Houthi rebels who control of the capital Sanaa. It has also played a key role in military campaigns against Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch.

The Elite Forces' detainees are kept in shipping containers where temperatures can reach 50 degrees celsius, the report said, going on to compare the conditions to Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison, where US forces abused prisoners.

The Yemeni prisoners are detained on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda, but residents say people had to deal with the militant organisation when it was in control of the city.

The report also cites allegations that some men were kidnapped for ties to the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islah movement.

A man who did not want to be identified by his full name told the Bureau that armed men from the Elite Forces took his son from his home last year without giving a reason.

He was told his kidnapped son was at al Riyyan airbase, but he does not know how to reach him or discover what charges he is facing, if any.

"We don’t know whether they're alive or dead," another parent said. "Is that human rights?"

The UAE is a key US ally in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a UN report said on Friday that the UAE has supplied attack helicopters and other military aircraft to the Libyan forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar, in violation of a UN arms embargo.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which refuses to recognise the UN-backed government in Tripoli, has made inroads in fighting and now controls all the major cities and military bases in the south of Libya.

"The United Arab Emirates have been providing both material support and direct support to LNA, which have significantly increased the air support available to LNA," said the report by a UN panel of experts.