The United Arab Emirates and allied Yemeni forces are running a network of secret prisons across southern Yemen where hundreds of people detained in the hunt for al-Qaeda militants have disappeared and where torture and abuse are widespread, former prisoners, Yemeni officials and rights lawyers say.
US personnel have been involved in at least some interrogations, AP reported on Thursday.
Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in the country but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.
Human rights abuses have been documented in the country’s alleged secret network of prisons, including the infamous “grill,” in which a detainee is allegedly tied to a spit—like a roast—and then spun in a circle of fire, according to the AP investigation.
According to the rights group, the UAE operates two of 11 secret prisons in southern Yemen, and its officials have forcibly disappeared people and ordered the continued detention of others despite release orders.
In a separate investigation, The AP said it has documented at least 18 secret prisons in the southern governorates of Aden and Hadramawt.
“We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in response to the story. “We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights.”
The UAE denied any existence of secret prisons. But Yemeni and U.S. officials confirmed to AP that Emirati forces send videos of the interrogation sessions to the U.S. military.