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Shadow Report (2): Torture as a Weapon of War in Yemen and the role of the UN

The following report reveals how torture is being used by all parties to the conflict in Yemen as a weapon of war where Yemenis are locked prisons and detention centres without adequate access to food.

Shadow Report (2): Torture as a Weapon of War in Yemen and the role of the UN

Following the outbreak of popular protests in the Middle East starting from late December 2010 in Tunisia when  street vendor Mohammad Bouazizi set  himself on fire to  protest the  confiscation  of his  stall and his having been physically attacked by a local council officer, many countries across  the Middle East region found themselves embroiled  in a state of turmoil involving clashes between protesters and security forces.  The protests resulted directly and indirectly in acts of lawlessness as protesters took to the streets demanding social justice only to find themselves confronted by security forces and other personnel allied to governments and related institutions of power.

One manifestation of these protests was the emergence of organized gangs  of thugs and state-sponsored non-state actors who instigated a series of  human rights violations across  the region, either because they were given  a green light to do so by forces and governments opposed to political change and reform or because the authorities concerned chose to turn a blind eye to such abuses.  This is not surprising given the facts on the ground and how certain governments and forces over the years have benefited from and exploited the lack of democratic processes.  These are the very governments that consider  protests and calls for reform a threat to their  existence and interests and therefore feel compelled and justified in taking  whatever actions they deem necessary  to stop them.[1] Measures they have resorted to include  abductions,  arrests, and the torture and killing of political dissidents.

Sadly, torture has been an all too common feature among the human rights violations carried out in many of these fragile countries and tribal 

 societies.  Warring parties in countries like Libya, Yemen, and Syria have repeatedly resorted to torture as a means of suppressing voices calling for change, or simply to quell those whose views on governance and political change differ from their own. Torture has been rampant in Yemen, Since the intervention of the Arab Coalition in 2015[2] , its practice condoned as the country’s various warring parties drew on political and military support from external interests such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Yemenis have had to pay a steep price as these nations seek to win regional influence and control over the country’s national resources. Thousands of Yemenis have been killed and imprisoned -- many having undergone unspeakable acts of torture. This is why the people of Yemen have called on the international community to stop the practice of torture by the warring parties in their midst immediately and to help establish NGOs dedicated to upholding the rights of abductees similar to the Abductees Mothers Association.[3]

The section that follows highlights how torture has been used as a weapon of war in Yemen by the different warring parties.  It also spells out how each party has used torture to achieve political gains in flagrant violation of human rights and relevant Yemeni laws. Similarly, it evaluates the role of the United Nations and its repeated call for a ceasefire in light of the spread of COVID19 and the challenge the pandemic represents for UN efforts  and the prospects for a Yemen that is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe amidst the growing and pernicious use of  torture as a weapon of choice in a cruel and brutal war.  

To read full report, click here.

[1] Josua, M. and Edel, M., 2015. To repress or not to repress—Regime survival strategies in the Arab Spring. Terrorism and Political Violence, 27(2), pp.289-309.

[2] Hokayem, Emile, and David B. Roberts. "The War in Yemen." Survival 58, no. 6 (2016): 157-186.

[3] For more information, have a look at the website of AMA. Last accessed on 20 April 2020. Available at: