Watchdog Accuses Yemen's Iran-backed Rebels of Taking Hostages, Torture

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch says some Houthi officials 'are exploiting their power to turn a profit through detention, torture, and murder'

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, Houthi Shiite fighters stand guard during a rally to mark the third anniversary of the Houthis' takeover of the Yemeni capital, in Sanaa, Yemen
AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File

An international watchdog is accusing Yemen’s Shi'ite rebels, known as Houthis, of committing “serious abuses” — including “taking hostages, torture and enforced disappearances” — against people they hold in detention.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday it documented “16 cases in which Houthi authorities held people unlawfully, in large part to extort money from relatives or to exchange them for people held by opposing forces.”

It urges the rebels to “stop taking hostages, free everyone arbitrarily detained, end torture and enforced disappearances, and punish those responsible for abuses.”

Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW says some Houthi officials “are exploiting their power to turn a profit through detention, torture, and murder.”

Yemen’s civil war, which started in March 2015, pits Iran-backed Houthis against a Saudi-led coalition backing the country’s internationally recognized government.