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US 'must review abuses' of UAE forces in Yemen

The war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians. [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 August, 2017

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A coalition of rights groups has issued a joint letter to key US agencies calling for a review of allegations of abuse by US-allied UAE forces in Yemen.

A coalition of rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), has issued a joint letter to the US Department of Defence, FBI and CIA calling for a review of allegations of abuse by US-allied UAE forces in Yemen.

In June, an Associated Press investigation revealed that the United States was interrogating hundreds of men who were tortured by UAE prison guards in the secret sites.

Senior US military personnel confirmed their involvement, but denied any knowledge of human rights abuses.

Interrogating the victims of torture is illegal under international humanitarian law, as it is seen as complicity.

At least eighteen separate secret prisons were found to be in operation across south Yemen, all either run or supported by the UAE, with the US allegedly providing coalition forces with a list of most-wanted men to detain.

Family members of those detained said that some prisoners were transferred from UAE or Yemeni custody to UAE-run military bases in Eritrea.

US agencies must make public to the "fullest extent possible" any reviews into "allegations that US-allied forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have been responsible for serious abuses in Yemen", the letter issued on 2 August said.

The joint appeal was co-signed by Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and others.

Read more: UAE frustrates US by thwarting its peace efforts in Yemen, Libya: report

US Defence Secretary James Mattis responded to a letter sent by the Committee on Armed Services requesting a review of the allegations, but the response was not publicly disclosed.

"The United States doubtless recognizes that continued cooperation with forces engaged in serious abuses places US personnel at risk of being complicit in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law" the rights groups said.

Interrogating the victims of torture is illegal under international humanitarian law, as it is seen as complicity.

'Torture, detention and disappearances'

So far, no US agencies have conducted a serious review of the allegations of abuse by US-allied UAE forces, which include "arbitrary detentions, torture, mistreatment, enforced disappearances, and unlawful prisoner transfers", the rights groups said.

"We hope this brings a sense of urgency to US investigations into the alleged abuses and the prompt implementation of necessary corrective action".

Until such the risk of abuse is reduced, the US should not receive information unless it can demonstrate that it was not obtained through torture or ill-treatment, it added.

"The US should also press the UAE and other forces implicated to make publicly available a list of all detention sites and provide information on all those in custody or who died in detention."

The war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, and wounded 44,500 since the Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Houthi rebels it says are supported by regional arch-rival Iran.

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