x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Amnesty details 'horrific' abuses in south Yemen

Beheading of alleged sorcerer, crucifixion of man accused of spying and amputation of a man's hand for stealing are among abuses cited in report.

A Yemeni tribesman loyal to the army stands guard at the local authority compound damaged in the city of Zinjibar, after the army retook the city from Al Qaeda.
A Yemeni tribesman loyal to the army stands guard at the local authority compound damaged in the city of Zinjibar, after the army retook the city from Al Qaeda.

SANAA // Al Qaeda committed "horrific" rights abuses during its 16 months in power in southern Yemen, Amnesty International said in a report released today, documenting the beheading of an alleged sorcerer, crucifixion of a man accused spying and amputation of a man's hand for stealing.

The rights abuses between February 2011 and June 2012, when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) affiliate Ansar Al Sharia took over parts of southern Yemen, resulted in "a human rights catastrophe", according to the London-based rights group.

The report also accuses Yemen's government of abuses.

"We believe that horrific human rights abuses took place and violations of international humanitarian law by both sides," according to author of the report, Celina Nasser.

Al Qaeda's takeover of large swathes of territory in southern Yemen was the first time the group has governed entire towns and cities.

The report documents some of the violations during the conflict between Yemeni government forces and Ansar Al Sharia. It also sheds light on how Al Qaeda militants ran government affairs.

Al Qaeda militants seized Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province on the Arabian Sea coast, while Yemen was mired in the turmoil of a popular uprising against then president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The militants also took control of several nearby towns. Mr Saleh, once a US ally, stepped down in February under a GCC-mediated, US-backed deal.

Al Qaeda set up committees to rule southern Yemen. Their rulings and punishments were documented in videos released by al-Qaida in Yemen's media arm. Amnesty compiled some in a nearly 10-minute video released with the report.

The video shows a man in front of a crowd holding the severed head of a woman accused of sorcery. Other scenes show amputation of a man's left hand in a public square in the town of Jaar in southern Yemen. He was accused of stealing electronic wires. Without a trial or prior knowledge of the punishment, he wakes up to find his hand was cut off.

"They gave me an injection, and I slept ... when I woke up, my hand was not there," the man told Amnesty.

Another scene shows the bloated body of a man who was killed and crucified in a public square.

Stores were forcibly closed during the daily prayers. A woman tells Amnesty that an Ansar Al Sharia militant banned men from entering her store.

"I would keep the door open, so he hung a curtain to make sure that no one could see me," she said.

The group also forced women to not only cover their faces, as is tradition in Yemen, but also to cover their eyes.

In May, the group destroyed tombs and shrines that they regarded as idolatrous in three villages in the governorate of Abyan.

Around a quarter-million people were displaced because of the conflict. The World Food Programme says that more than 10 million Yemenis - 44.5 per cent of the population - are food insecure, many of them internally displaced.