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Watchdog: Saudi, allied forces have 'seriously' abused civilians in Yemen

Government soldiers ride in a truck in the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, on January 4, 2019. The civil war has been going in Yemen since March of 2015. File Photo by Najeeb Almahboobi/EPA-EFE
Government soldiers ride in a truck in the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, on January 4, 2019. The civil war has been going in Yemen since March of 2015. File Photo by Najeeb Almahboobi/EPA-EFE

March 25 (UPI) -- A human rights watchdog said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and military allies have been abusing civilians in Yemen during the civil war that's now been going for five years.

The accusations from Human Rights Watch said Saudi-led forces have committed various abuses since the fighting began in 2015, including making arbitrary arrests and abductions and illegally transferring detainees to Saudi Arabia.

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The accusations came on the fifth anniversary of the start of an air campaign by Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces intended to back the Yemeni government against Houthi rebels, who took over the capital Sana'a several months earlier.

Wednesday's report detailed abuses by Saudi military forces in the far eastern province of al-Mahrah since last June.

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Former detainees told Human Rights Watch they were tortured at an airport detention facility where Saudi officers supervise Yemeni forces, and accused the Saudis of detaining civilians for as many as five months without giving information on their whereabouts.

"Saudi forces and their Yemeni allies' serious abuses against local-Mahra residents is another horror to add to the list of the Saudi-led coalition's unlawful conduct in Yemen," Michael Page, HRW deputy Middle East director, said.

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"Saudi Arabia is severely harming its reputation with Yemenis when it carries out these abusive practices and holds no one accountable for them."

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The watchdog said the actions of Saudi forces have violated international human rights laws.

"The Saudi and Yemeni governments should immediately release any Yemenis wrongfully detained or transferred to Saudi Arabia and investigate alleged torture and enforced disappearance by their forces in al-Mahrah." Page added. "The [United Nations] Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen should also investigate these abuses, with a view to holding those responsible to account."

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