Report warns of widespread sexual torture at UAE-controlled prisons in Yemen

The US - a key UAE ally - has denied any knowledge of detainee abuse

Report warns of widespread sexual torture at UAE-controlled prisons in Yemen

People stand on the ruins of a destroyed building hit by airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, 06-06-2018. Image: Xinhua/Mohammed Mohammed

A new report has warned that Yemeni men are being sexually tortured and held without charge or trial in prisons controlled by the United Arab Emirates.

Fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the ousted Yemeni government – supported by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states – has been ongoing in the region for three years.

A key part of the coalition, the UAE has taken on a lead role in recent months - and has taken hundreds of prisoners throughout the war.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that these men are being held without charge or trial in a network of at least 18 hidden prisons on suspicion of terrorism.

A strong Emirati ally, the US has been supporting the Saudi coalition with arms sales, intelligence and military support throughout the war.

The UK meanwhile, has been labelled “one of the principal backers” of the war due to its ongoing arms sales and military support for Saudi Arabia.

Sexual torture

The alleged abuse in the Emirati-controlled prison follows a cycle - with detainees apparently beaten on day one, tortured the next, given a break on day three and then put into solitary confinement on the fourth day until the cycle begins again.

Speaking anonymously to the AP, witnesses have described guards, working under the direction of Emirati officers, raping detainees while others filmed the assaults.

They said that guards have electrocuted prisoners genitals and hung rocks from their testicles.

They have also reported prisoners being sexually violated with wooden and steel poles.

“They strip you naked, then tie your hands to a steel pole from the right and the left so you are spread open in front of them. Then the sodomizing starts,” said one father of four.


One detainee smuggled drawings made on paper plates to the news agency from inside the prison.

They show a man hanging naked from chains while he is being subjected to electric shocks, another inmate on the floor surrounded by snarling dogs as several people kick him and graphic depictions of rape.

"The worst thing about it is that I wish for death every day and I can't find it," the detainee said.

US denial

Despite well-documented reports of torture from a number of human rights groups and the United Nations, US officials deny any knowledge of detainee abuse in Yemen. 

One year ago, Major Rankine-Galloway told AP after its initial investigation: "US forces are required to report credible allegations of detainee abuse.

"We have received no credible allegations that would substantiate the allegations put forth in your line of question/story."

The UAE and US are strong allies.

The conflict started in 2015 after Houthi rebels took over much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

The ongoing war has driven the country to the brink of famine with eight million people facing starvation and some 22 million in need of humanitarian aid.

Additional reporting from IRN ...