The nonprofit watchdog group Human Rights Watch released a report on Tuesday that detailed the alleged atrocities of the Al Houthi rebels in Yemen. According to a press release from Human Rights Watch, the militant group “has frequently taken hostages and committed other serious abuses against people in their custody.”
According to a report from Gulf News, the watchdog organization documented at least 16 instances of unlawful imprisonment by the Houthis. The group uses this tactic as a way to extort money from the family and friends of the abductee. They also use their captives as bargaining chips in prisoner exchanges.
“The Houthis have added profiteering to their long list of abuses and offenses against the people under their control in Yemen,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch via the press release. “Rather than treat detainees humanely, some Houthi officials are exploiting their power to turn a profit through detention, torture, and murder.”
The Houthis did more than simply imprison their victims, however. According to Human Rights Watch, the prisoners were often subjected to beatings with “iron rods, wooden sticks, and assault rifles.” The report also stated that Houthi guards sometimes whipped the captives and threatened them with rape.
The Houthis have been waging an insurgency in Yemen since 2014, according to Human Rights Watch. Iran provides backing to the group, and the Gulf State has been accused of providing the rebels with arms, which violates rules laid out by the United Nations. According to a report from The Daily Caller, Ambassador Nikki Haley presented evidence of Iran’s support of the Houthis in December of last year.
Human Rights Watch has asked that the Houthis “stop taking hostages, free everyone arbitrarily detained, end torture and enforced disappearances, and punish those responsible for abuse.” The nonprofit group also asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the allegations and “identify those responsible.”