UAE rejects Amnesty International report as diplomatic drive stalls in Yemen

Many southern Yemenis say they are exploited by leaders in the north, mainly by the associates of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Sunday 15/07/2018
A member of the UAE Armed Forces prepares to search for landmines in Al-Mocha in Yemen. (Reuters)
Crucial role. A member of the UAE Armed Forces prepares to search for landmines in Al-Mocha in Yemen. (Reuters)

SANA'A - The United Arab Emirates emphatically rejected an Amnesty International report accusing Abu Dhabi of “serious violations” in “secret prisons” in Yemen.

The Amnesty International (AI) report alleges that the UAE, along with allied Yemeni forces, tortured detainees in prisons in southern Yemen. AI called for a war crimes investigation.

“The report is politically motivated to undermine its efforts as part of the Arab Coalition to support the Yemeni government,” the UAE government said in an official statement.

“The UAE does not manage or run prisons in Yemen. Prisons in Yemen are under Yemeni authority and fall under the jurisdiction of the country’s institutions. As such, the UAE has urged the Yemeni government to conduct an independent investigation into the matter and continues to follow up with the Yemeni government on this front,” the statement said.

The UAE also said it had facilitated visits to Yemeni prisons in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The AI report was preceded by a call by Yemeni Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maysari for the UAE to close or hand over prisons it runs in the south.

However, some analysts say the issue has more to do with the UAE’s support for Yemen’s southern separatists, officially known as Southern Transitional Council (STC), which has a history of being hostile to the Yemeni government.

In January, 38 people were killed in fighting between government forces and the STC in the government’s temporary capital of Aden. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were able to establish a shaky truce.

STC Supreme Commander Aidarus al-Zubaidi and Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi have a history of bad blood between them stemming from Hadi removing Zubaidi as Aden governor in May 2017. Zubaidi then joined forces with the southern separatists.

Many southern Yemenis say they are exploited by leaders in the north, mainly by the associates of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The anti-Saleh sentiment led to the formation of the Southern Mobility Movement in 2007, which seeks to re-establish South Yemen as an independent state.

The drive by the pro-government coalition to liberate the port city of Hodeidah from the Iran-allied Houthi rebels has stagnated. Coalition forces began the offensive June 12 but mines and snipers have slowed progress

Coalition forces pledged to take control of the port from the Houthis because intelligence reports indicate that the rebels generate up to $40 million a month from Hodeidah. It is also believed to be their main point for receiving weapons and funds from benefactor Iran, in violation of a UN ban.

Efforts on the diplomatic front also do not appear to be moving any faster. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths travelled between Riyadh and Aden for talks with Saudi officials and the Hadi government a week after meeting with the Houthis in Sana’a.

Sources told The Arab Weekly that Griffiths has been unable to come up with a comprehensive and implementable road map for talks that could be supported by all concerned parties.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said all that has been achieved by Griffiths’ shuttle diplomacy was European support for his initiative. The Yemeni government, the Arab coalition and some influential countries tied to the dispute were not enthusiastic about the initiative.

Consequently, after talking with Griffiths on July 10, Hadi ordered a committee, led by Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Dagher, to formulate ideas before direct negotiations with the Houthis, the pro-government Saba news agency reported.

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