Yemen: Urgent investigation needed into U.A.E. torture network and possible U.S. role

United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its allied Yemeni security forces are alleged to be arbitrarily detaining and torturing detainees, who are also being interrogated by US forces in a network of secret prisons across Southern Yemen.

Following these allegations arising from an Associated Press investigation, Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research at Amnesty International in the Middle East said:

“A UN-led investigation must immediately be launched into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture. Thousands of Yemeni men have disappeared in those networks. Enforced disappearance and torture are crimes under international law. They must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable.”

“Allegations about US forces taking part in interrogations of detainees or receiving information that may have been obtained through torture must also be immediately investigated, as the US may be complicit in crimes under international law. Also, given the UAE’s practice of torture domestically, which Amnesty International has consistently documented in the past, it would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture.”

“The UAE is obliged to uphold the UN convention against torture which it became a state party to in 2012. As a signatory to the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the UAE must also refrain from acts that defeat the Treaty’s purpose, which includes reducing human suffering.”

“Furthermore, the USA as well as European countries must immediately halt arms transfers to the UAE given the high likelihood those arms could be used to facilitate enforced disappearances, torture or serious violations of international humanitarian law. Otherwise, arms suppliers could be complicit in war crimes.”


The UAE is a key participant in the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in Yemen. It is known to provide military equipment, training and logistical support to Yemeni security forces in Aden and al-Mukalla that stand accused of serious violations of international law.

At the same time, the USA and western European states continue supplying substantial quantities of military equipment to the UAE, which is one of the five largest arms importers in the world.

By continuing to supply weapons to the UAE and its coalition partners for use in Yemen, arms suppliers which are states party to the ATT risk violating its core human rights provisions.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called for a comprehensive embargo on arms transfers that could be used by any party to the conflict in Yemen while there remains a substantial risk the arms would be used to commit or facilitate war crimes or other serious violations.