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Human Rights Watch accuses Yemeni security officials of raping African migrants

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) –┬áHuman rights watchdog Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Yemeni officials of the internationally recognized authority of torturing and raping African women and children in a detention center in the impoverished south of Aden, which has been under armed conflict for years.

But a senior security official in Aden denied that the government security services were involved in these abuses, saying the organization relied on sources “deliberately distorting the facts.”

“Some Yemeni government officials tortured, raped and executed migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa in a detention center in the southern port city of Aden,” the organization said in a report received by AFP.

Authorities in the city, which is considered the temporary capital of the recognized authority, “have been denied asylum seekers the opportunity to seek protection as refugees and have deported migrants collectively in dangerous conditions across the sea,” organization said.

Yemen has been under an armed conflict for years between government forces and rebels controlling the capital and other parts of the poorest Arab peninsula. The conflict escalated in March 2015 as Saudi Arabia began military operations in support of the government at the head of a military alliance.

But despite the military conflict and the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, thousands of migrants are heading to Yemen, hoping to find work in neighboring Gulf states. Some 87,000 migrants arrived in Yemen last year, the UN refugee agency said.

Human Rights Watch said it had met with eight newly detained migrants at the center in the Brega district of Aden, as well as Yemeni government officials and other Ethiopian, Somali and Eritrean migrants.

“The guards routinely assaulted women, girls and boys,” Human Rights Watch said.

“Every night they take one to rape him, not all the boys, but the young ones … I know seven boys who have been sexually assaulted,” one detainee said.

“The boys were coming back unable to sit down, sometimes crying, and telling others from time to time what happened,” several detainees said.

“Women and girls were systematically raped and they saw the guards raping two of her friends,” said an Ethiopian woman detained in prison.

Detainees said the guards “beat them with iron rods and batons,” but “shot them too”, killing at least two of them.

According to Human Rights Watch, Yemeni authorities prevented international humanitarian organizations that visited the center from “screening migrants with serious injuries.”

The Yemeni Interior Ministry said in a letter that it had “isolated the center’s leader and began to move migrants to another location, promising to investigate complaints or evidence of abuse.”

– Unjustified –

“We categorically deny the involvement of any of the organs and security units affiliated to the security of Aden,” General Shalal Hussain, director of Aden security, told AFP.

“It is clear that the organization relied on sources and parties tendentious, deliberately distorting the facts, and attributed the exposure of some refugees to the official authorities, and this is not true at all.”

“There is no security body that has been subjected to torture or any harm, not even forcible deportation,” the report said.

Aden, which has fought bloody battles with government forces in January for control of the coastal city, is controlled by various security forces, including the security forces, backed by the military alliance and the United Arab Emirates.

The Human Rights Watch report again highlights the refugee situation in the country engulfed in armed conflict.

In January, at least 30 migrants were killed when a boat capsized off the city of Aden. In August, smugglers threw 300 migrants into the sea off the coast of Yemen, causing 56 people to drown and lose others.

It followed a similar tragedy in which a smuggler forced 120 migrants to jump into waters before reaching the southern Shabwa coast. A military helicopter opened fire on a boat carrying 140 migrants off the Yemeni coast in March 2017, killing 42 migrants.

In conjunction with Human Rights Watch’s report, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published a report confirming that migrants were “beaten, exploited and forcibly deported.”

UNHCR called on Yemeni authorities to allow them to speak to migrants.

“The Yemeni authorities and the Houthi rebels should cooperate with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish procedures that allow African migrants to seek asylum or seek protection,” said Bill Frelick, director of Refugee Rights at Human Rights Watch.

“The crisis in Yemen does not represent any justification for this cruelty and brutality, and the Yemeni government should end these practices and hold those responsible accountable,” Frelick said.