UAE-backed mercenaries have arbitrarily detained and possibly tortured a Yemeni journalist since last September, the Human Rights Watch said.
The so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) militants have chained, threatened, and beat Adel Al-Hasani to make him confess to using his work as a journalist to spy for foreign countries, a source close to the journalist said.
The Human Rights Watch and Mwatana for Human Rights both urged STC militants to immediately and unconditionally release Al-Hasani.
They also urged the STC authorities to investigate and take action against those responsible for torturing or otherwise ill-treating Al-Hasani.
“More and more journalists across Yemen are subjected to threats, intimidation, violence, or detention simply for doing their jobs reporting on the country,” said Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, on Monday.
“The Southern Transitional Council’s deplorable treatment of Adel Al-Hasani further stains the appalling rights record of the STC and their UAE backers,” said the researcher.
Human Rights Watch spoke with a source with direct knowledge of the circumstances of Al-Hasani’s detention, as well as three of his relatives, his lawyer, and four journalist colleagues. The source said that on September 17, around midday, STC forces stopped Al-Hasani in his car at Al-’Alam checkpoint, at the eastern entrance to the Aden governorate, and detained him.
They took him to Dofus checkpoint in Abyan governorate where they kept him for a few hours alone in a room for interrogation, chaining and beating him with rifle butts. The interrogators wore uniforms that indicated they were members of a pro-STC force known as the Support and Reinforcement Brigades, the source said.
They later transferred Al-Hasani to a different unknown detention center, where they also interrogated and beat him, the source said. On September 19, the STC forces transferred Al-Hasani to Bir Ahmed, an informal detention facility in a military camp the STC controls in al-Buraika district in Aden and kept him in solitary confinement until October 11.
The source said that the room in Bir Ahmed where Al-Hasani was detained was filthy and did not have a toilet or drinking water access. During interrogation sessions, STC security personnel repeatedly threatened to kill Al-Hasani’s family if he did not confess to spying for foreign countries and groups. Later, on an unspecified date, the STC personnel forced Al-Hasani to sign a document admitting that he was a spy.
Relatives of Al-Hasani told Human Rights Watch that they received no information about him for 25 days after his arrest despite searching and asking about him in police stations and detention centers in Aden. They said that STC authorities denied that they were holding him, thus forcibly disappearing him. His relatives learned where he was only after he was transferred to Al-Mansoura.