"The Sanaa authorities put themselves at risk of future prosecution if they don’t account for the people who are wrongfully detained and return them to their families," Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Director Sarah Whitson warned, as quoted by the organization.
There is no conclusive information on the number of people held in Yemeni prisons, although the HRW documented at least 61 cases of arbitrary or abusive detention since August 2014. Of those, two died in custody and 11 complained of torture or other ill-treatment.
At the same time, Yemeni lawyer Abdul Ghazi who heads the Defense Authority of Abductees and Prisoners, was cited by the watchdog as saying his nonprofit was representing over 2,500 detainees and missing people.
The HRW said it had documented cases of alleged arbitrary detention and mistreatment at all of the locations mentioned by Ghazi but was unable to confirm the number of people held there. Houthi authorities refused to grant the HRW access to prisons.
Violence erupted in Yemen in late 2014 when an opposition group, called the Houthis, staged massive anti-government protests. Rebels overran the capital of Sanaa in spring 2015 and ousted UN-recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, prompting an all-out war.