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HRW report on Yemen: “disappearances” and arbitrary arrests in the armed conflict with Huthi rebels

Human Rights Watch publicou hoxe un informe de 47 páxinas sobre as “desaparicións”, os arrestos arbitrarios e outras violacións dos Direitos Humanos cometidas polas autoridades de Iemen no conflicto armado que os enfronta cos rebeldes Huthi.

O informe leva por título “Disappearances and Arbitrary Arrests in the Armed Conflict with Huthi Rebels in Yemen”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

In the context of recurring armed conflict with Huthi rebels in the northern Sa’da governorate since 2004, Yemen’s security forces have carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of civilians. Since 2007, but especially in the first half of 2008, the extent of arbitrary arrests and “disappearances” expanded, with the government broadening its targets to include persons reporting on the war’s impact on civilians.

After negotiations, on July 17, 2008 hostilities in the latest round of fighting ceased, and on August 17 Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced the release of some prisoners. Nevertheless, tens if not hundreds of persons remain in detention, and new arrests have taken place. As documented in this report, the ease and impunity with which security forces arbitrarily arrest and sometimes “disappear” persons warrants a prompt, thorough and independent investigation, and greatly enhanced judicial oversight to prevent such violations from recurring in the future. Those found responsible for arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances, whatever their position or rank, should be held to account.

The armed conflict between Yemeni government forces and Huthi rebels began in 2004. Husain al-Huthi founded the Believing Youth movement in the 1990s, aimed at reviving Zaidi Islam, a branch of Shi’ism found mainly in Yemen, to counter growing fundamentalist Sunni trends in the northern Yemeni governorates where Zaidis dominate. The conflict began as isolated clashes of the Believing Youth movement (Huthis) with the army in Sa’da. Thereafter, anti-Israel and anti-US demonstrations led by Huthis in San’a, Yemen’s capital, which embarrassed the government after it had embraced US counter-terrorism efforts, led to arrests of Huthis and further clashes with them.

Zaidi Hashemites, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, led the Huthi movement. They had ruled Yemen for a millennium and comprised the state’s religious and governing elite until the army-led revolution in 1962, also supported by some Zaidi tribes, deposed them. Zaidi Hashemites are especially prominent in the Sa’da area, where there has not historically been a significant government law enforcement presence.

Since the clashes of 2004 there have been five periods of sustained fighting, mostly in the countryside, but in June 2008 escalating to the outskirts of San’a. So far an estimated 130,000 persons have been displaced from their homes in the northern governorates, although some may have returned since July 2008.

Over the decade preceding the outbreak of the conflict, Yemen made some advances in the rule of law, especially by setting out rights in the constitution and other legislation, such as the penal code and criminal procedure code. However, these have been eroded by hundreds of enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests, mainly in the context of the Huthi rebellion but also relating to the government’s domestic counter-terrorism efforts and its crackdown on social unrest in southern Yemen. Estimates of the numbers of persons disappeared or detained vary—Yemeni human rights organizations have documented tens of disappeared, and hundreds arbitrarily arrested at various stages since 2004. In August 2008, officials spoke of approximately 1,200 political prisoners remaining detained, some 130 of whom were gradually being released.

Human Rights Watch investigated 62 cases of disappearance and arbitrary arrest linked to the Huthi rebellion for this report. In nearly all of the cases, arresting officials did not identify themselves or inform the detainee or his family why he was being arrested and where he was being taken. The families of persons forcibly disappeared did not know for weeks or months after their arrest whether their loved ones were alive or not, who their captors were, or where they were being held. Some still do not know.

Most detainees, when they reappeared, did so at the Political Security Organization, the security and intelligence agency directly linked to the office of President Saleh, after having been effectively “disappeared” for weeks or months without acknowledgement of their location. Some remain missing—the earliest unresolved enforced disappearance investigated by Human Rights Watch dates back to June 2007.

Those arbitrarily arrested included a wide range of persons, including many who were not actively participating in hostilities against government forces. They can be grouped into three categories. First are persons effectively held hostage to pressure a wanted family member to surrender or end their human rights activities. Second are Hashemites, adherents of Zaidi Shi’ism who may have been targeted by the security forces on the basis of their religious activism. Third are Zaidis going to or returning from areas of recent fighting between the army and Huthi rebels, or who are otherwise suspected of sympathizing with them.

A new and separate category which has emerged over the past two years is that of persons arbitrarily arrested for publishing information about the armed conflict, including journalists and website writers. […]

24 Outubro 2008 - Posted by | Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Politics, Yemen

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