Written By: Elena White
Article Date: Sep 6, 2012 - 4:11:36 PM
Amnesty International, a prominent rights organization based in London - UK – published on Thursday a disturbing report on alleged abuse against southern activists in Aden. It is important to note that Aden’s local authorities in al-Mansurah – where the incident took place – refused to comment on the matter, nor denying, nor admitting blame.
Abdul Raouf Hassan Zain al-Saqqaf, a student-activist in the southern seaport city of Aden –formerly capital of South Yemen – complained to Amnesty International of mistreatment by the hands of the Central Security Forces, claiming that he was at risk of further abuse and/or arbitrary arrest.
As explained by the rights group on its website, al-Saqqaf had been organizing a rally for the southern movement in al-Mualla district – one of al-Harak, the Southern Secessionist Movement’s strongholds – on August 10, with another four activists when eight central security officers broke into his residence at dawn – around 6am – and arrested everybody. Al-Saqqaf noted that “the officers arrived in two separate vehicles - one of them mounted with a machine-gun turret – “
The five were taken to Khormaksar police station in Aden, where they were said to have been beaten with rifle butts and a stick.
The security officers and men in plain clothes apparently singled out al-Saqqaf, accusing him of “teaching” the other activists. While the other four activists were released at approximately 10pm, al-Saqqaf was hooded and handcuffed before being taken to the Central Prison in the al-Mansurah district of Aden.
He said he was beaten again in the prison and then held in solitary confinement in a tiny cockroach-infested cell without light or fresh air. This is what he told Amnesty International:
“I had to lie on the cockroaches. I was beaten when I asked to see the director of the prison and they handcuffed me to the bars on the door of the cell for three to four hours. When it was sohur time [dawn meal before observing the daily fast during the month of Ramadan] they brought bread and milk, but I was not given the milk that was given to other prisoners.
Two hours later I started to have severe pain in my stomach and started to throw up.” As the activist’s health was degrading fast one of the inmate, a doctor, urged officers to quickly transport al-Saqqaf to a hospital as he warned his condition was rather serious and needed to be address without delay.
Although reluctantly, an officer agreed on August 13, to take al-Saqqaf to a hospital to be examined, According to the activist’s testimony he was again hooded and handcuffed before being taken to al-Naqib hospital - he says he was beaten again on his way to the prison.
Later on the evening, he was released but was threatened that “this is not a complete release; you could be brought in at any time.” Al-Saqqah, who because of a prior arrest had to miss his second-term exams, fear he will be once again prevented from attending on September 3, which will set him back an entire year. Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Philip Luther said:
“We’re urging that an independent and impartial investigation to be carried out into Abdul Raouf’s alleged torture by the Yemeni security forces and for anyone found responsible to be brought to justice.
“Threats to keep on disrupting activists’ lives by hinting that they could be whisked away at any moment are outrageous and the Yemeni authorities must not allow such intimidation to continue.
“Peaceful political activists in Aden and other parts of southern Yemen face repression from the Yemeni authorities, including widespread intimidation and arbitrary arrests, as well as torture or other ill-treatment in some cases. This repression needs to stop and authorities throughout Yemen must uphold the right to exercise freedom of expression.”
• Yemen fifty years of diplomacy
• Yemen faces severe food insecurity, says international report
• FEWS warns of severe food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen
• Yemen southern activists at risk say Amnesty International
• Yemen’s General People’s Congress 30th – Overview of the Ruling Party