HOOD Annual Report: 2012 is the Year of Drones and Terror Security Forces (2)
- Tuesday, 28 May 2013
- - HOOD
The following is a partial translation of HOOD’s 2012 Annual Report under the title of "2012 is the Year of Drones and Terror Security Forces". Because of the intrinsically international nature of so many of the human rights issues currently facing Yemen, we are pleased to make selections from the report available in English and accessible to readers beyond the Arab world. If you should require further details or data on any specific incidents mentioned in this report, please contact HOOD at our website; we will do our very best to provide you with all the information you need.
We believe this is a critical time for our country, but also a crucial opportunity. Thank you for your interest.
HOOD annual report:
HOOD produced its annual report under the title"2012 is the Year of Drones and Terror Security Forces". The report provides analysis and a summary ofthe main issuesinvestigated by HOOD through 2012.We have divided the issues we work onaccording to the classification shown below.
Founded in the year 1998, HOOD has been on the forefront of the fight to advance human rights in Yemen for the past fifteen years. While we look forward to the day when our vision of our country as a place where human rights are respected and honored is fully realized, we must also take stock of the lasting challenges facing our nation. Yemen not only suffers from crises in unemployment and illiteracy, the rate of these scourges on our society is increasing over time. Human rights violations have increased along with the degree of the challenges faced in Yemen. We can readily understand at least part of the reason why: assiduous monitoring of rights violations is rendered more difficult as our society is collectively subjected to ever greater stresses.
This report covers HOOD’s activities during the period of January to December 2012 and includes complaints and data lodged with the Secretariat for Human Rights in Sana’a, reflecting violations reported throughout the country. It also includes information collected from our own teams throughout Yemen, including the provinces of Lakhj, Bayda, Al-Mahwit, Hodeida, and Ibb. We have also included a legal research article in attachment comparing the provisions against unlawful confinement and detention in the Yemeni Criminal Code, §104, to the abhorrent practices of the Political Security Organization in Yemen. We hope that this article in particular will aid researchers and human rights activists.
While we are committed to reporting facts as accurately as possible and therefore believe that this document may serve as a useful and much-needed indicator of the current human rights situation in Yemen, we must emphasize that the data collected here are an indication only—no pretense is made to absolute accuracy in every detail, given the intrinsic complexity of obtaining and verifying reports. Those who wish to consult the most up-to-date data may contact our office in Sana’a for access to our records and consult our semi-annual report.
It is important to note in this introduction that the joint freedoms of opinion and expression are themselves critical in attempting to gauge the development and progress of human rights in Yemen. Promisingly, the past two years have seen a considerable increase in the number and types of media available to the average Yemeni, including print, television, and radio. However, working in media remains a relatively risky occupation in this country. Moreover, satellite TV and private broadcasters are working without any regulation whatsoever, leaving them susceptible to various potentially unsalutary influences. The absence of media standards governing the media effectively exert a bias in favor of those channels granted free use of the State-owned airwaves, since other outfits and foreign broadcasters are barred from the Yemeni media landscape on the pretext of the absence of any law specifically governing the media.
While we realize that we are working in a dangerous and difficult environment for fact-finding and advocacy on behalf of the victims of human rights violations in Yemen, we persevere with the hope that our efforts will somehow contribute to the coming-into-being of the society we all desire for our country—a society that respects human rights, protects freedom of expression and the right to a fair-trail, and, crucially, applies the rule of law and fundamental principles of good governance to the administration of justice in Yemen.
- Al-Ja'ashin displaced People
Since the beginning of 2010, dozens of Al-Jaashen families from Ibb governorateremain displaced in Sana'a after being forcibly evictedfrom their homes by the private militias of Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Mansour, who is also a member of the Shoura council and a poet of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He claims ownership of some of the Al-Ja'shin displaced people's lands, and, having forcibly evicted the residents, he brought other people from other areas to occupy the homes of the displaced persons. The Sheikh imposes illegal taxes on locals, withthe clear understanding that those who refuse to pay shall be brutally punished by his roving militia.
On 25 August 2012, the Sheikh sent his militias to collect illegal taxes froma resident ofAl-Ja'shin. When the latter refused to pay and fled, the militiastormed his house and threw his child from the roof.
HOODfinds that the responsibility for preventing such abuses falls unequivocally on the Government. We demand that the Government take immediate steps to spare the lives of the citizens in Sheikh Mansour’s crosshairs and permanently put an end to such violations.
- Extrajudicial Killings:
HOOD documented many of the drone airstrikesthat occurred on Yemeni soil during the year 2012. Weundertook a field mission to observe the locations of these strikes and meet personally with the victims. All told, there were almost 81 airstrikes in 2012, only half of which the US admitted to being US-led operations. The report highlights incidents that took place in five regions: Walad Rabi' in Al-Bayda, Rada, Khashamer and Al-Shehr in Hadramout, Ja'ar in Abyan, Sana'a
We present below only a selection of some of the dronestrikes that we have investigated. Fullerdocumentationis available in the report submitted by HOOD, Alkarama and the Center for Constitutional Rights to the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and human rights on April 23, 2013. Please see: http://www.ccrjustice.org/files/HOOD,_Alkarama,_CCR_SJC_Submission.pdf
The AbyanWar and Violations of International Humanitarian Law
For more than a year, the Yemeni government (backed by U.S. warplanes and munitions) has battled against a coalition of tribal militias and belligerents of "Sharia'ah Supporters" linked to Al-Qaida. HOOD has been monitoring the course of these clashes closely since their inception and has helped coordinate local NGOs to launch initiatives to endthe proliferating violations of International Humanitarian Law. These initiatives include coordinated media campaigns that call for both parties to respect the laws of war and to protect civilians by stopping random strikes carried out by the regular military.
HOOD and Al-Karama sent a delegation to the conflict zones in Abyan during March/April 2012. The delegation recorded the unresolved, ongoing displacement of at least half of the citizens of Ja'ar due to random strikes by Yemeni military airplanes. Furthermore, the repeated threats made by the Yemeni governments that astorming of the city to end the belligerents' control was imminent have proven to be the largest single barrier to the return of the displaced citizens.
During the team’s field visits to Abyan province, it noted a clear lack of State services, and the near-total absence of the rule of law and administration of justice.This situation in this region, tragically overlooked by the State for decades,has nurtured deep feelings of indignationand mistrust among the local residents and, predictably,inclined them to accept any authority that might represent a lifeline from their long-standing political, judicial, and social quagmire. The desperation of residents was such that they were even willing to countenance rule by armed groups, so long as the latter brought some semblance of order. A similar escalation of the problem played out in several other areas of the provinces of South Yemen, where armed groups all too readily stepped into the political vacuum left by the State’s abdication of its responsibility to these regions.
It is clear that there is a close, causal relationship between human rights violations in the context of the “War on Terror” and the breadth of the influence of armed groups linked to "Al Qaeda" in Yemen: increased abuses of human rights lead directly, almost inevitably, to the waxing influence of armed groups among local populations. For this reason, HOOD has continued to urge the Yemeni security forces, particularly the Political Security Organization (PSO) and the National Security Organization (NSO) to respect all rights guaranteed in the Constitution, the laws of Yemen, and the applicable international conventions and treaties—particularly the rights to liberty and mental and physical health. We must reconsider the radical procedures of the so-called "War on Terror"in light ofthe immediate and long-term interests of our country. We must also ensure that suspects in criminal investigations are treated in conformity with well-established local and international legal principles.
The armed conflict in AbyanProvince between the Yemeni army and the forces of "Ansar al-Sharia" came to a head in the cities controlled by the latter inAbyanin early June, 2012. Nevertheless, the Yemeni authorities have to date not initiated any investigation into the attacks that indisputablyclaimedthe lives of many innocent civilians. Indeed, it has not taken any concrete steps to begin to address the effects of the war.
In fact, the war of Abyan in the beginning of 2012 was merely the beginning of a new phase in the history of the American drone offensive in Yemen, which has been characterized by an unprecedented escalation in the scale of the program and number of attacks, resulting in the death and maiming of countless innocent civilians, as well the pernicious psychological damage caused by the attacks. Indeed, some cases of permanent psychological disability have been documented.The cumulative effect of these individual tragedies has been the festering of an incipienthated of the United States of America in the affected communities.
During a recent field visit to the region in the beginning of February 2013, the team witnessed the effects and aftermath of mass distraction in Dofs, areas of Zanzibar, Al-Makhzan, Al-Kod and even Jaar. Zanzibar, the capital of Abyan province, appeared to be the most heavily-hit area due toits being the site of repeated clashes during the insurgency. Different weapons of varying destructiveness were deployed throughout the period from April, 2011 to June, 2012, whenthe Yemeni government officially declared that it had regained control of these areas. However, armed groups have claimed that they pulled out solely in order avoidfurtherharm and casualties tothe civilian populations.
Many residents of the district of Jaar in Abyan reported that artillery shelling and warplanes launched by the Yemeni army during some confrontations were done at random, while others said that hardcore fighters sometimes took refuge among the civilian population.
Some residents said they did not know the exact identity of the airplane that bombed them.Others, however, said that the types of warplanes engaged in the bombing operations were different from those known to be owned and operated by Yemeni forces.
The Drones: America's War in Yemen
Over months of Government-led operations, many civilians—including women and children—died, whileothers suffered serious casualties in the town of Ja'ar and its surroundings, all as a result of attacks carried out by warplanes and artillery batteries. The largest of these attacks was on 15 May 2012, when a warplane targeted a house in downtown Ja'ar inhabited by a family named Alarshani, causing the death of a young man, Nwair Mohammed Abdullah Alarshani, 33, and wounding several others. As hundreds of citizens gathered to help in the rescue mission, the plane returned minutes later and fired several more missiles directly at the citizens, which lead to the additional deaths of at least 13 men and one woman, but wounded dozens more.
Aninsidious sense of terror has hung over Al-Bayda’ governorate for more than a year, especially in the Walad Rabi’ district in Qifah, in the central region of the Governorate of Al-Bayda’.US drones have been hovering over the area continuously, leaving the residents to fear attack at any time. It was not long before their fears were proved grounded: a U.S. drone carried out an airstrike ending the lives of 17 young people of Al-Bayda’ in a bombing assault on theMamdud valley on March 10, 2012. These victims are: Mohammed Taha al-Qirbi, Ali Taha al-Qirbi, SalehTaha al-Qirbi, Omar Mohammed Taha al-Qirbi, Mohsen Mirza, Ahmed Sharaf, Samarkand Al-San'ani, Sohail Al-San'ani, KhaledMqsam, JameelJarafah, Ali Al-Barakani, Hussein Al-Barakani, Abdul-Aziz Al-Barq, Hadar 'Abdul Qader Al-Homaiqani, Hadar Al-Homaiqani, Kamal Allodri.
On April 14, 2012, a US drone carried out a second airstrike killing 3 young men of Al-Bayda’ in a bombing raid of Alajrdi in Al-zahir.
On Sunday, September 2, 2012, an aircraft fired a missile on a truckcarrying 14 civilians, including women and children,from the villages of Al-Humaidh and Al-Sabol. Eleven of them were killed on the spot and 3 were left seriously injured, i.e. the driver and two people who were riding outside the front of the vehicle, clinging to the vehicle’s sides because of the lack of any further space inside the vehicle.
On September20, 2012, the Yemeni government convinced the victims' families to bury the bodies of their relatives and promised to pay compensation to them. The burial was agreed to be held in the city of Dhamar without any public announcement of the time and place of the burial. A mission, sent by HOOD and AlKarama organizations, attended the funerals.Our missionobserved that the local public prosecutor has taken no action in the case—not even ordering procedures as routine as a forensicexamination of the bodies and a report on the cause of death.
One of the fallen is MabrokMukbil Al-Deqari, 13, whose father said in his son's burial ceremony: "Mabrok dropped out of 6th gradeand began workingon the farm to help us make ends meet—to survive.” He added, "Everybody loves Mabrok; but his grandfather loves him very dearly indeed, which made it hard for us to tell him of the death of grandson until today."
- 1.Nasser Mabkhot
- 2.Mohammed Abdu Jar Allah- died later
- 3.Sultan Ahmed Mohammed Sarhan
As part of our fact-finding mission in the investigation of this attack, we sought to obtain testimonydirectly from the eye-witnesses themselves. We hoped to conduct interviews with the injured survivors at the Republican Hospital in Sana'a, but had great difficulty trying to enter the hospital on September 4, 2012 due to stepped-up security measures thatbarred any visits of the victims outside of relatives. Nevertheless, with the help of the victims' families, we managed to meet the wounded and recordtheir testimony. Burns, swelling, and pyoderma, especially on their faces and limbs, were so severe that it was difficult to recognize the missile shrapnel that remained embedded in their bodies. They also suffered from visual impairment.
The wounded spoke to us only briefly and with great difficulty. One observed: "We were on our way back from the city after each one of us finished his work there—the majority had been selling qat. As we entered the secondary road, we saw two planes approaching us,one of them was very close to us. The closer plane fired a missile, we attempted to flee from the car—some of us were still alive and wanted to escape—but the plane fired a second missile to kill those who had survived the first. We were engulfed in flames and smoke from all sidesas our bodies burned."Another survivor continued, "the plane was extremely close to us, which undoubtedly gave them a clear view of us; there could have been no doubt that we are civilians accompanied by our women and children." "Why did they this to us? Why do Americans want to kill us? Are we not human beings like them?" another grieved survivor pleaded.
All the survivors mentioned the further stress of being placed in a localhospital whose facilities and expertise werecompletely inadequate to treat their life-threatening conditions. The HOOD teamalso noted the lack of any air conditioning for the burn victims, which only exacerbated their discomfort in scorching climate of the region. The Yemeni government made no move to transfer them to a qualified hospital abroad except when pressured by a call by HOOD to Health Ministry.The victims of the strike were eventually transferred to hospitals in Egypt and the Ministry of Defense provided two tickets and $5,000 to each wounded person.
Only a few days after being transferred to Egypt, Mohammed Abdu Jar Allah died of his injuries. The rest of the victims returned to Yemen due to lack of money and their inability to continue paying for accommodation and medicine.
HOOD and Alkarama organized a well-attended press availability for the families of the victims in which the families describedthe unceasing circuits made by dronesthrough the skies above their homes, day and night without respite, for over a year.Given the still-raw memory of the strike which left so many dead and wounded, residents described living in a perpetual state of panic and fear.
On 11 July 2012, a U.S. drone killed an American citizen, Adnan Ali Yahia Al-Qadi, born in 1968. He was the father of five children, held a master’s degree, and served as an enlisted manin the First Armored Division of the US Army. He was targeted near his house at Bait al-Ahmer village in Sanhan, Sana'a, along with two other residents, RabieLahib and RedwanAlhashedi, despite the lack of any public summons to appear in court, no charges against him having beenalleged, and his well-known, continuous residence in the village. In 2008, Adnanhad been arrested by the political security officers. Although he remained in custody for several months,he was then was released without charges or trial.
When contacted by HOOD about the death of Adnan, the General Prosecution referred our request to the Technical Office and has made no progress or further efforts in the case as of present.
HOOD has dulysubmitted a request to the General Prosecution for a wide-reaching investigation into complaints of U.S. spy planes patrollingYemeni air space and U.S. drones carrying out lethal strikes on Yemeni territory, resultingin the deathsof innocent citizens and violating Yemeni sovereignty.
HOOD added in its request: the Yemeni State with all its attendant authorities, including the judiciary and the prosecution, has a solemn duty to defend society and is mandated to safeguard the rights and lives of its citizens. HOOD concluded its request: "Therefore we request that you investigate these incidents and bring whomever responsibleto justice.”
- Arrests and arbitrary detentions
The Yemeni security agencies and Yemeni militarycontinue to commit crimes of deprivation of liberty and arbitrary detention. They exploit the low level of awareness among citizens and the absence of judicial oversight both in the protection of citizens andin the holdingof perpetrators accountable. Even in those cases where the judiciary has exceptionally attempted to take on such cases, the General Prosecution continues its practice of releasing detainees without any investigation into the reason for their detention and without seeking to bring the responsible parties to justice.
During 2012,HOOD recorded about 414cases of illegal arrests by governmental and non-governmental organizations. Naturally, this figure does not reflect thetruenumber of such illegal arrests;rather it reflects—and can only reflect—the number of cases brought to the attentionof HOOD. We ground our work only on reliable, eye-witness reports and never accept press monitoring. The chart below estimates the number of cases of illegal arrest, along with the arresting authority:
The National and the Political Security Apparatuses
The Interior Ministry (Police Stations)
Private Prisons, Ansar Allah
External Authorities / Other Nations
Al-Qaida and Al-Sharia' Supporters
- Enforced Disappearances (?)
In 2012, HOOD documented 58 cases of unexplained disappearances and 29 cases of enforced disappearances, allegedly at the hands of the security forces, some of which were committed in the past but were reported to HOOD in 2012.
- Physical and Psychological Torture
The various security forces in Yemen, but particularly the NSB and the PSO, still regularly practice the crime of torture onthe majority of persons held in their custody, mostly with an eyeto extracting confessions from them. HOOD received a number of reports of torture from people recently freed from prisons administered by the above security forces.
Through our observation of some of torture cases filed before the Specialized Criminal Court, the "State Security Court," we find that even when the victims of torture present an initial motion to the judge in court affirming that they were subjected to torture, and even where physical scars from the torture remain—scars thatclearly demonstrate the occurrence of torture—the judge accepts their confessions and statements taken under duress. Moreover, the prosecution carries out its investigations inside the detention facility of the intelligence agency and under the supervision of its agents, who advise the detainees not to engage lawyers. This results in the impossibility of conducting an impartial investigation by the prosecution.
- Security Forces Hostage taking
Tragically, hostage-taking is still being practiced by the state security forces, in much the same way as it wasdone fifty years ago before the September 26 revolution against the rule of the Imamate. HOOD received many reports of hostage-taking by security forces. Typically, security forces will kidnap a family member or relative of the wanted person in an attempt to force the latter to turn himself in.Our annual report for 2012 details several incidents of hostage-taking.
Hostage-taking is a blatant violation of both international and regional human rights instruments. It also violates article 47 of the Yemeni constitution which states: “Criminal liability is personal. No crime or punishment shall be undertaken without a provision in the Shari'ah or the law. The accused is innocent until proven guilty by a final judicial sentence, and no law may be enacted to put a person to trial for acts committed retroactively.”
- Prison conditions and treatment of prisoners
The Prisons Act, which governs the treatment of all persons lawfully held in prisons or other places of detention in Yemen, expressly forbids the incarceration of any individual in such facilities unless pursuant to the judgment of a duly-appointed judicial authority and accompanied by a stamped and sealed Order of Imprisonment duly signed by the Office of the General Prosecutor. Despite this unambiguous legislative procedural safeguard, Yemen’s prisons are filled with individuals who are being held illegally, merely by the order of political, military, or security officials—and even sometimes on the orders of tribal chiefs.
The conditions of prisons in Yemen are deplorable. There is no separation of prisoners who suffer from severe mental illness from the general population. Indeed, at the central prison, there are no medical professionals on staff and there is no standard procedure in place for dealing with the psychiatric patients held there. The same food is served to prisoners on a daily basis, year after year, with no changes or improvements. There are few if any rooms reserved for walking, recreation, or time outside the inmate’s cell. There is no effort made or provision by the courts to secure legal representation for indigent prisoners and no education, however basic,is provided for the prisoners to aid them in understanding their legal rights.
The conditions at a prison in the port city of Hodeida are representative of systemic problems throughout Yemeni prisons. In the year 2012, HOOD received 290 complaints from inmates at the facility, detailing a list of abominable, even potentially life-threatening conditions. In HOOD’s full report, testimony from inmates is included that alleges the lack of clean drinking water or water for washing. Bedding, what little is available, is a vehicle for disease transmission because of a lack of maintenance. Waste-handling is shockingly inappropriate and promotes the spread of mosquitos, flies, and localized epidemics. Infectious diseases spread rapidly among the inmates because of the lack of basic hygienic standards in the prison.
- Arbitrary Administrative sanctions against Employees
HOOD has tracked the growth of sanctions against State or military employees who participated in or supported the Revolution or otherwise expressed views that were disapproved by their superiors. Several tactics were used against those employees who were meant to be silenced: they were fired from their positions; separated or otherwise isolated from their coworkers; had various sums withheld from their salaries; and were in some cases transferred to other locations suddenly and without explanation. HOOD has recorded hundreds such cases of dismissal and withholding of pay since the beginning of the year, but only a small fraction of these cases have ever been processed or otherwise addressed by the relevant authorities. Of particular note are the 1600 Yemeni soldiers who participated in activities in Ta’iz’s Freedom Square during the revolution and simply seek to be reinstated in their prior positions. Only 328 of the 1,600 cases have been processed to date.
Former soldiers in the Republican Guard have come to HOOD because, despite a court order mandating the restitution of the wages they are owed and their reinstatement in their previous provisions, no progress has been made on their cases. Thus far, they have been threatened against returning to work and warned they would be imprisoned if they attempted to do so. Two assistant doctors at a military hospital were fired when it came to light that they sympathized with the revolution.
- The right to association (Freedom to Form Trade Unions and Civil Society Organizations)
The formation of trade unions in Yemen has been and remains beset by various difficulties, despite long-standing statutory recognition.Organized labor is a recent phenomenon in Yemen; some complications are therefore to be expected before the idea or its practice gain wider currency. But the previous regime activelydiscouraged unionization among public sector employees and forbade it outright for employees of certain ministries, in direct contravention of existing law. Civil Service Law No.19 (1991) mentions the right of employees to organize, as does the Trade Unions Law No.35 (2002). Article 126 of the Civil Service Law states: “Every employee shall enjoy the right to organize and join trade unions and professional associations aimed at promoting and defending reconciliation in the workplace, as stipulated in the law regulating the organization of unions and the Associations and Cooperatives Law, except in caseswhere the nature of his work precludes such activity,” e.g. an emergency care physician, who cannot go on strike because his action would endanger lives. Despite these clear, statutory protections, the government has continued to attempt to stymie union activity, has engaged in harassment of unions under various pretexts, and has filed malicious complaints with the Office of Public Prosecution. The government’s actions have been directed not only against activists, but against the unions themselves, among them the Union of the CentralOrganization for Control and Auditing Employees, the Union of the Joint General Authority for the Protection of the Environment Employees, and the Union of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Employees.The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor has even attempted to prevent trade union activity by revoking the licenses required for the union to operate.
However, an additional obstacle must also be taken into account: the relative dearth of appreciation for the importance of unionization in Yemeni society at large. Whether consciously or unconsciously on the part of the populace, confusion between union action, human rights, and partisan action persists—the role, scope, and benefit of union action is poorly understood.
Based on our research and advocacy, we strongly recommend that the following be implemented immediately:
- Stop the use of Drones. Issue apologies on behalf of both the Yemeni and American governments to the victims and their families.
- Compensate the families of the drones' victims. Additionally, cover all costs of their treatment and of reconstruction in the areas destroyed by drone strikes.
- Have The General Prosecution enhance its oversight role in the regular detention facilities and other penal institutions and close all irregular detention facilities operated by either the PSO or the NSB or those private detention centers controlled by leaders of State institutions, tribal sheikhs orother influential persons.
- Close the illegal prisons that were established in violation of the Prison Regulation Law and are not being administered by the Prisons Department, especially thoseheaded by the PSO and the NSB.
- Have civil society organizations launch lobbying efforts to persuade the Yemeni government to hold impartial investigations of cases of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and torture with the goal of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
- Have civil society organizations, along with the Bar Association, encourage the victims to lodge complaints to prosecute the violators and provide legal aid for them.
- Persuade the Yemeni government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
- Promote legislative reform with the view to clarifying the "safeguarding measures" clause in article (104) of the Yemeni Penal Code to diminish the misinterpretation and abuse of this clause.
- Urge the judiciary to implement and enforce already existing statutes against those who violate the freedom and dignity of persons such as: deprivation of liberty, torture, arbitrary arrests, misappropriation of state resources…etc.