Hundreds of men have reportedly been rounded up and held in a secret network of prisons in Yemen where they have been tortured by United Arab Emirates and/or Yemen forces trained by the UAE, and interrogated by U.S. forces (video below).
The extreme torture has included the "grill" in which people are tied to a grill-like structure and rotated over fire, according to The Associated Press. Detainees were also reportedly beat, sexually assaulted, flogged with wires, smeared with feces and locked inside of a container filled with smoke.
While U.S. forces have not been accused of participating in the torture, sources told AP that U.S. forces were present during some of the torture and allowed it.
Kristine Beckerle of Human Rights Watch, which has also documented the alleged torture, told Democracy Now! on June 22 that children have been detained:
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The UAE is backing abuse of local forces in Yemen. And we call upon them to do is to resolve disappearances and to grant access to detention sites. And basically, what this report is over the last six months, Human Rights Watch has been investigating in particularly Aden and Hadramawt, the south and east of Yemen, abuses in UAE-led counterterror campaigns. And when I say "abuses," I’m talking about arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, abuse, torture, detention of children, and the UAE and UAE-backed forces running secret detention sites in the country.
Senior U.S. defense officials told the AP that U.S. forces have been a part of the interrogations, but denied any knowledge or participation in human rights abuse.
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U.S. forces infamously took part in the torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay under the George W. Bush administration, which repeatedly denied the facts.
The AP notes its sources include civil rights lawyers, families of prisoners, former detainees and Yemeni military officials.
The Yemen government has been involved in a civil war against rebels since 2015, and has enlisted the UAE to help in its effort.
The secret places where people are held, and reportedly tortured, include private villas, military bases, sea ports and a nightclub.
U.S. defense officials told the AP that U.S. forces do participate in detainee interrogations in Yemen by providing questions and receiving transcripts of the interrogations from the UAE.
The officials said U.S. senior military leaders had been made aware of and checked into the torture allegations, but do not believe people were abused in the presence of U.S. forces.
Chief U.S. Department of Defense Spokeswoman Dana White told the AP: "We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights."
Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University, said obtaining intelligence as a result of torture could violate the International Convention Against Torture and would likely be a war crime.
The UAE government stated: "There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations."
Beckerle told Democracy Now! how the U.S. is involved in Yemen:
The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led coalition, and it’s the U.S.'s main counterterror partner in Yemen. And so, what the AP then reports is that not only is the U.S. aware of these allegations of abuse, but the U.S. itself is sending in interrogators into these prisons and involved in interrogations of Yemeni detainees—the exact same places where we and the AP are reporting that former detainees, family members, government officials have been telling us that there's sort of rampant abuse.
And so, the big question that you then have is, OK, so now the U.S. is on the hook potentially legally for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and you now have the U.S. potentially complicit or involved in detainee abuse with the UAE in Yemen.