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Houthi rebels accused of holding around 20,000 people in 790 prisons

A virtual meeting of the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, known as the Rasd Coalition, that took place on 27 June 2020 revealed that tens of thousands of people who had challenged the Houthis’ rule were being held in secret and known jails.

According to information disclosed at the meeting, around 20,000 people are being held in 790 prisons in Yemen in areas under the control of Iran-backed Houthi militias.

A long list of human rights abuses

Speaking at the gathering, which brought together human rights organisations from inside and outside of Yemen, the coalition’s Executive Director Mutahar Al-Badhiji said the meeting aimed to highlight Houthi actions that had fueled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis at a time when the fragile Yemeni health system was battling to cope with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Murad al-Garati, President of the Temkin Development and Human Rights Organization who spoke at the meeting, added that the Houthis have recruited 7,000 children and are responsible for planting landmines in various cities that have killed 6,000 people

Houthis have repeatedly come under heavy criticism from local and international rights groups for arbitrarily abducting their opponents and suppressing protests in the city of Sanaa and other provinces in Northern Yemen.

A Houthi-controlled court recently sentenced four Yemeni journalists to death, a move that triggered global condemnation. The movement has also vowed to execute dozens of legislators, journalists, activists, and military officers who switched sides and backed the internationally recognised government.

Najeeb Al-Saadi, head of the executive unit in Yemen for internally displaced people, announced in the meeting that the Yemeni conflict had forced 3.66 million people to flee their homes and take shelter in 521 displacement camps in the country.

The number of displaced Yemenis has increased since the beginning of this year as a result of heavy fighting between Houthi and government forces in Marib province and Nehim district, near Sanaa.

Covid-19 amidst the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

The war in Yemen has been raging for more than five years and has left about 80% of the population – 24 million – reliant on humanitarian assistance and around 10 million are considered “one step away from famine”. The conflict has also left millions of people without access to proper health care, clean water or sanitation which is why Covid-19 poses an extreme and urgent threat to Yemen.

The United Nations has warned that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could even “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.”

With only half of the country’s 3,500 medical facilities fully functioning, medics are already struggling to deal with the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, which has resulted in more than 2.2 million suspected cases and 3,895 related deaths since October 2016.

On 28 June 2020, Unicef warned that millions of children could be pushed to the brink of starvation in Yemen amid a “huge” drop in aid caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency as children, in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, battle for survival as Covid-19 takes hold,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, Unicef’s representative in Yemen.

“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die,” Nyanti warned.

An estimated 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 360,000 children under five years old who are struggling to survive. The charity Save the Children estimated that 85,000 children with severe acute malnutrition might have died between April 2015 and October 2018.

The Houthi rebels have been accused of obstructing aid deliveries and distribution.


The International Observatory of Human Rights is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of 4 innocent Yemeni journalists who have been sentenced to death by a Houthi backed court for simply doing their job of covering the war in Yemen. The four journalists Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq al-Mansouri were convicted of “collaborating with the enemy” and sentenced to death on 11 April 2020.

Watch our exclusive investigation below and read more about our campaign #SaveYemeniJournalists here.

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