on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance

ACJ: Impunity Encouraged the Widespread Use of Enforced Disappearance in Yemen
  • 30/08/2023

    The world and the human rights community celebrate the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance on August 30, while hundreds of Yemenis are still forcibly disappeared in the prisons of the Houthi group in Sana'a, the Southern Transitional Council in Aden and other areas under the authority of the legitimate government.

    Despite the UN- announced truce between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia more than a year ago, the fate of dozens of the forcibly disappeared remains unknown, and the parties to the conflict continue to commit this crime until this moment. It should also be noted that cases of enforced disappearance have declined in all governorates, and a number of those forcibly disappeared by the Houthi group have been released, including former Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, brother of President Hadi, Brigadier General Faisal Rajab and others.

    The elderly man, Yusuf Ali Qaid al-Raimi (75 years), is still forcibly disappeared by the Houthi group since he was kidnapped on August 12, 2018, while he was out shopping in Madhbah, north of the capital, Sana'a.

    Also, Shakib Al-Khader Ali Allan is still forcibly disappeared since he was kidnapped on June 10, 2015 by the Houthi group during its invasion of the city of Aden. Shakib was abducted from one of the Houthi checkpoints and they refuse to reveal any information about him until this moment.

    In Aden, the educator/ Zakariya Muhammad Qassem is still forcibly disappeared since an armed group affiliated with the Aden Security Department kidnapped him on January 27, 2018 and took him to an unknown destination, refusing to disclose to his family any information about his life or whereabouts.

    Likewise, teacher / Al-Baraa Ahmed Al-Jefri is still forcibly disappeared since an armed group affiliated with the UAE-backed security belt kidnapped him on June 13, 2019, and his family does not know any information about him.

    On April 27, 2017, Yemeni government forces arrested Dr. Mustafa Al-Mutawakel at Al-Balq point in Marib governorate while he was returning from participating in a conference in Morocco. He was allowed one call with his wife on the day of his arrest. Then he was forcibly disappeared until this moment.

    On February 24, 2015, the Houthi political group arrested Muhammad Qahtan, a prominent leader in the Islah Party, at a checkpoint in Ibb governorate, in central Yemen, while he was traveling to Aden. After that, they took him to Sana'a and placed him under house arrest. On April 4, 2015, 15 gunmen from the Houthi group stormed Qahtan's house and took him to an unknown location. His fate and whereabouts are unknown to this day.

    Enforced disappearance is no longer some individual cases, but a systematic crime targeting Yemeni citizens and political opponents in areas controlled by the Houthi group and the Southern Transitional Council, as well as areas controlled by the Yemeni government. Enforced disappearance occurs in complex security conditions and is used in particular as a means of political pressure on opponents.

    During the disappearance process, the victims are exposed to many violations related to civil and political rights that may amount to a violation of their right to life. A number of the forcibly disappeared people died in secret detention centers in Yemen due to torture, ill-treatment, and deliberate medical neglect whereas others sustained permanent disabilities.

    As a result of these violations, the families of the victims often bear the brunt of the serious psychological and socio-economic hardships that often accompany enforced disappearances, especially women, who often lead the struggle to find a solution to the issue of the disappearance of her family members. For doing so, she may be subjected to harassment, persecution and retaliation. The loss of a parent through disappearance constitutes a serious violation of the human rights of a child.

    The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the General Assembly in December 2006, states:

    • No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance.
    • No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.
    • Each State Party shall take the necessary measures to ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes an offence under its criminal law.
    • The widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity as defined in applicable international law and shall attract the consequences provided for under such applicable international law.
    • It also obligated states to search for disappeared persons, investigate their disappearance, and enable victims to access justice and reparations.

    The American Center for Justice (ACJ) expresses its deep concern over the continuation of these violations and the fact that the perpetrators remain out of the hands of justice and their ability to escape punishment, which encouraged the spread of the phenomenon of enforced disappearance on a large scale.

    The Yemeni government's failure to ratify the "International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance" has tempted various parties to the conflict to practice enforced disappearance in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

    The ACJ calls on the legitimate government to urgently ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It also urges all parties to reveal the fate of the forcibly disappeared, provide information about their condition and places of detention, and enable them to exercise their legal rights, such as communicating with their families and lawyers, and release them or refer them to judicial authorities if there is a legal justification.

    In addition, the ACJ also calls upon the United Nations and its envoy to Yemen, Mr. Hans Grundberg and all partners and human rights defenders around the world to fulfill their legal and moral responsibilities in order to reveal the fate of the forcibly disappeared and to release them.

    The American Center for Justice (ACJ)