A member of Parliament’s Freedom and Human Rights Committee, Mr. Ahmed Saif Hashid is an independent MP who represents constituency number 70 including Lahj and Taiz. Mr. Hashed heads the “Al-ttageer” human rights organization. He also owns the “Al-Mostakela” newspaper.
Q: Mr. Hashid, thank you for granting this interview. Can you tell us generally about the condition of human rights in Yemen? Which areas in your opinion require urgent attention?
A: Man and human rights in Yemen are totally absent and his dignity is so cheap. The worst is that crimes are committed by those who have to be responsible for protecting the law and its application. Actually it pains me to find the security apparatuses practice torture, attacks and the worst kinds of mistreatments in the prisons and custody centers and also outside them. This happens under the weak control of the judgment which indulge in independence and under the unreal parliament that was produced by terrible corruption and it hasn’t even the minimum degree of responsibility. It intends to conspire upon human rights issues without shame. There many examples on this connection. It may be worthwhile to mention that this country supports the tribe with its ignorant traditions at the expense of the law. It stands against law, and uses its force over the victims and over the legal articles that protect the human rights.
Q: You have been very active in advocating for the humane treatment of prisoners. What are the conditions like for prisoners in Yemeni central prisons in terms of food, sanitary conditions, medical care and abuse?
A: The food served to the prisoners is so unpalatable and lacks hygienic conditions regarding its preparation. The most surprising is that the parliament committee of rights and freedom recommended increasing food allocations two years ago. Unfortunately the parliament has even decreased what had been allocated. The most painful tragedy is that dozens and hundreds of prisoners do not receive any (food) allocations at all. This, for instance, includes Sana’a Migrations and Passports Jail, some jails of the districts of AL.Houdadah governorate. The prisons there depend on charity and soldier’s food remains.
Some jails don’t have any infirmaries. Some others do have, but are in sore need for medicine and relevant equipments. It is found out that many prisoners are given prescriptions and they have to be able to purchase from the market, otherwise, die in the jail.
AIDS may be common among some jails, such as, Migration and Passports Jail. The infected are not kept separated from the others. In AL-Houdeidah central prison, dozens of the jailed are found, three years ago, to be suffering from this disease, as indicated by some documents. The committee of freedom and rights was so careful not to include this issue in its reports under the pretext that it may cause fear to spread and damage tourism. Skin diseases are also common in some jails and are not treated. Some women are found to be suffering from diseases including ’syphilis’ and other skin diseases considered to be so disgusting that they are rejected by hospitals and are not kept in separation as a preventive measure.
It was found that custody jails do not have even an ambulance, and any patient has to be taken by a taxi to hospital and he is responsible for the fee.
Regarding the sanitary conditions in the prisons and custody centers, they are in miserable situations. It was noticed at the corners of some prisons heaps of urine bottles and defecation plastic bags .The military police prison in Sana’a and AL-Sawadiah security prison in AL-Baida’a governorate are some of these prisons. Other prisons are ancient and dirty buildings. Some of them are built in the old “Imam” era, and were also found some jails do not have any good ventilation. This becomes worst during hot weather when temperature reaches 38, moisture increases and air becomes polluted. This is applicable for Al-Hodeida Central Prison and that of its districts. In fact, this situation lead to suffocation and spread of infectious diseases in some prisons, they use waste water due to the absence of drinkable water, on the one hand, and because of the fact that water pipes are in bad situations as a result of moisture, high temperature and daily stopping of water, on the other hand. The prisons in Yemen are over crowded with the number of prisoners exceeds, three times, its capacity. In fact, the place seems like a (Tuna Can).
It is unbelievable to find districts in Al-Houdeida governorate, which has no jails for women. In ‘Alzaidia ‘, female defendants are put in a house belonging to an old man. I visited this house and found fight female defendants aged between (10-15) accused of adultery who have neither food nor health care allocations, but rather they depend on charity . In another bad jail “BAIT Alfaqeeh”, built on charitable finances and is special for more than five districts, there is no prison for female; rather they are put in one of the neighbor’s houses.
Q: Is there a central authority that overseas all prisons? What kind of prisons exists in Yemen and how are they organized?
A: The central prisons and the custody centers in the governorates belong to the general prisons authority in Sana’a and authority of prisons stems from Ministry of Interior. Yet, it is noticed that security administrations influence greater on those prisons. Others prisons, holding dozens and hundreds, are controlled by their respective governmental security administrations and are not included into prisons department system. These prisons are prevented from official food and other allocations, as a result. They problem aggravate the situation.
Concerning the political security prisons, they are big, private and frightful ones, and it is impossible for anyone to visit them even if parliament members.
Other prisons include the”Harbi” prison, which holds hundreds of prisoners, mostly militants and a few are civilians. They are illegally arrested (based on Sheiks and other influentials’ orders).this prison is not covered in prisons that are allowed to be visited. Other custody contents, belonging to military intelligence are much difficult to visit. Other jails belong to economy Institution, works offices, police stations, Sheiks and influentials. In other words, Yemen can itself be said to be a prison for its nation.
Q: Can you explain the difference between tribal prisons, private prisons and central prisons?
A: Most of the sheiks in Yemen have their private prisons. These prisons are illegal. Among these illegally private prisons are the political security prisons in which there are horrible criminal acts against human dignity and rights. The exact bitterness lies on the weakness of judgment which has not eligibility on that’s prisons and often can not release any innocent prisoner. They are prisons in which you may spend years or a perfect age without fair and justice. Then you may be released without charge or arbiter or even excuse.
In its basements are horrible criminal acts and human indignities in such a manner that is unbelievable. It is a pity that the judgment can not control such places. A prisoner can stay until he is finally released without sentence, charge or even an excuse, while the law can not authorize anyone being arrested for more than 24 hours.
Q: The Children’s Parliament visited children in detention found them “in miserable conditions, beaten, malnourished, sexually exploited, held without trial and held for minor crimes.” A study by the Interior Ministry concluded that 77% of juveniles (15 and under) in jail had not been charged. Another report documented over 500 juveniles in adult jails. How young are the youngest children in jail? If Yemeni law prohibits imprisoning children without charge, why are so many in jail?
A: Sorrowfully, many acts and crimes are committed against children in Yemen. For example Al-Maflahi prison ,Yafi district, Lahj governorate, a fifteen-tear-old child was sexually abused by a police officer .The incident was proved by three forensic experts. In Ibb Jail of Investigation a female child ,named Samra Mohamad Mansour ,does not exceed 13, was tortured by the investigators . The story was published in many local newspapers. In Al Baida Security Prison, child hostages, one of them aged below 11, were also found.
Adult parliament control becomes a sorrowful story because the court becomes unbelievably weak .Yemen Authority of Justice does not make regular jail searching .however, law force them to do that.
In Al Houdaida Central Prison, a lot of children were found arrested by the political security. Some of them do not exceed 12. They live with the adults in the same prison and are prevented from being visited, as Political Security orders. Those children are free of any charges .In fact, they are innocent. Some of them are taken from their schools. Others were arrested at roads while going or coming back from schools some were also captured at their houses. All this happen while the court is shamefully disabled to release any one of them even if he has been innocently in prison for more than four months.
Nabil Mohammed Saleh, aged 12, Hussain Ali Saleh AlKuait ,13,Magid Yahya Ahmed AlDoubi,12,Abdu alghaliq Mufreh GHarsan ,11,Salah Ahmed Salah Afara,12, Mohamad Yahia Saleh AL-Kuait ,14, Yahia Mohamad Qassem,14, Ado Alrahim Waeel Abdo Allah,14, Zakaria Hassen Ahmed, 14, Hammed Abdullah Gar Allah,14, are among the children I met in ALhodiedah.
In Ga’ar prison, Abian governorate, two child hostages were among the children who have been met. They are Ali Yaslam Ahmed, aged 14, who has been innocently in prison for seven months and prevented from schooling at the end of primary. The security forces say that the child was arrested in place of his brother, who had been sentenced to 10 years in jai, seven of which were without any return. The child, Ali Yaslam, was finally freed after great efforts.
The other child was Basher Muhsin, aged 16. He was taken as a hostage in Ga’ar prison four months ago. A summary of his tragedy was narrated as follows: “My father is an old and sick man. He was taken as a hostage to bring his son under the pretext that he guaranteed but this was not proved. I am here in his place based on an order by Shaik hamoud, the governorate security director” Similar situations were also found out in Rada’a and AL-Beida’a prisons. This is some of Yemen tragedies and his rules’ criminal acts towards childhood and homeland.
Q: Are there many adults in prison who have never been charged as well?
A: This is very common in Yemen. Through our field visits, we find many prisoners without charges, dozens of hostages in Rada’a and Al-Baida prisons who have been there for months and some of them for years without any acts ascribed to them. Rather they were jailed on the basis of crimes committed by their relatives or tribal members. Many also were found guilty of civilian rather than murder-based issues. In fact, wrongdoings are widely-spread in Yemen and no one is willing to prevent these prisoners from being victimized.
Hundreds of prisoners were found innocently jailed in Al-Houdeida and Dammar central prisons and in Al-Naseria prison situated in Hagga .Some of these prisoners have been for more than a year without any charge except their serial affiliation to the Hashemite House. This arrest is sometimes attributed to what they called ‘ precautionary action ‘ which may last for one year or even more .Many names can mentioned here to substantiate this matter, but it may not be suitable , At any rate they are available.
Q: Many Zaidis have been imprisoned since the outbreak of the Sa’ada war in 2004. Can you tell us how many were imprisoned in total and how many remain in jail?
A: There no clear statistics on the number of the arrests on the grounds of Sa’ada War. The government once confessed existence of three thousands. Yet, the number is much more than this, we think. Such a matter can not be ascertained in Yemen and how can a parliament member know the real figure if he is prevented from visiting anyone at political security prison. I have a list of hundreds of the arrests on the basis of Sada’a War. They are still in prisons so far. A greater number is not known about, on the other hand, there are names of hundreds of losts who are likely to be sent to governmental private jails.
Q: Are there many political prisoners?
A: Yes, there political prisoners. For instance, Nasser Al-Nawba, the chairman of the retired associations coordination counsel, Hassan Ba Awm, a member of the political office of the Yemen Socialist Party .Hundreds of the arrests of the southern governorates were jailed and released on grounds of peaceful sit-ins in southern and some northern governorates during past short period.
In the central prison, Baggash Mohamad AL-Agbary, director of the former minister of defense ‘Haitham Taher’. This senior official was confiscated and illegally dismissed .He has been in prison since 1995 until now. He was sentenced to capital punishment by the primary court then, the sentence was reduced to twenty years imprisonment as a suspect of affiliation to Mawg (a political movement established in exile after 94Summer Civil War).Baggash was among a total of fourteen persons who were sentenced to unfair political penalties varying from capital punishment to imprisonment for long periods.
Once again, many prisoners were arrested on grounds of Sada’a War and many of them were taken for
As the political authorities think, however, without any charges.
Q: Many cases of brutal torture have reported in the media. One such case is that of Shaif Al-Haimi who says he was tortured by the National Security Agency, chained, severely beaten and scalded with boiling water. For 16 days he was hung from the ceiling. Investigators forced him to dance. Prisoners in Hajja jail said they were tortured by policemen in charge of the jail and affiliated with the Criminal Investigation Bureau. How prevalent is torture in Yemeni jails?
A: Not only torture and methods of forcibly extraction of confession are common in private political security apparatuses prisons, but also prevalent in murder-investigation departments and Ministry of Interior’s police’ station. When I visited the murder-investigation prison, as a member of the Parliament Freedom and Human Rights Committee, I saw, with my eyes, remains of stick-beats and heavy boots-kicks, which are still apparent on the bodies of two persons. A report was made on this incident and the committee report included this complaint. However, the counsel of parliament did little. The murder-investigation director is still in position without being questioned by any official authority. I also noticed other prisoners in police stations who were subject to torture and beats. Some of these acts were really covered in forensic examiners’ reports.
Among the victims is Abdulqader Mohammed “a Somali national, who has been in Yemen for six years. He was subjected to heavy beating a few months ago, by five of the members of the Sana’a –based Al-wahda police station. Remains of this attack were proved by forensic examiners report.
Such acts happen daily in many police stations while Ministry of Interior does not stop or even reduce them, which indicate its partnership. It also does not consider them and send the criminals to the concerned authorities.
During one last visit to Al-Hodeida central prison on May 2005, we found out that many children, adults and disabled were complaining of torture, violence and isolated imprisonment by political security. These persons are jailed just on the grounds of Sa’ada War.
In Rada’a central prison, I noticed remains over the body of Mohammed Saleh, who demanded a forensic expert to testify them. He complains that they are remains of torture by Acid and electricity; I took photos of these remains, recommending their being investigated by the court of law.
Ahmed bin Ahmed Mahdy also complained about being tortured with live cigarettes by the security. I also took photos of the remains which are still apparent. Ali and Yousif Mohammed Nassir also complained about being tortured in the Dammar-based murder-investigation prison with the aim at extracting confesses forcibly. However, the charges against them are not considerable.
Some prisoners complained about other means of torture, including hanging by hands or legs, beating by wires or cables, making hungry or thirsty, forcible long standing, prevention from sleeping for more than tow days, psychological torturing, using Acid and boiling water, pincers and others.
Q: Are you able to visit jails under the control of the Political Security Organization? What kind of prisoners are there?
A: No, we are not allowed to visit such jails. Since establishment of the parliament, its committee of rights and freedom did not pay even a single visit. An attempt made by the committee, to visit the Hadramout-based Political Security Prison, but was unsuccessful. I, personally, tried to visit some political security jails, but was not allowed. More than thirty parliament members, including me, demanded visiting Sana’a Political Security Prisons a few months ago, yet the council presidency represented by Yahiya Ali AL.raee, rejected to respond to this request or even being discussed.
Not all prisoners are charged with political crimes, rather some of them are charged with murder-based ones, and others are innocent. For example, Mohammed Ali Muhsen, from Aden, has been in the basements of the political security for one year and a half, on the basis of a letter he wrote to the president of the Republic, mentioning the bad situations and corruption in the political security system. He was arrested in Aden and sent to Sana’a political basements. The political security has been rejecting orders of the general director for being released or even prosecuted, which, as usual, indicates superiority of the political security.
Q: The Ministry of Human Rights issued a report disclosing 100 hostages in five Yemeni prisons. What are hostages and how long are they held? Is this practice decreasing?
A: The real situation says that number of hostages exceed this figure greatly. While this figure was being stated by the Minister of human rights, I was visiting department of jails and found in official statistics dated 28 May 2007 that the number of hostages in Yemen reaches (545).
I have already visited AL-Baidah governorate, and found more than 70 hostages. The worst is that they include children. In the governorate security quarter prison, we found Abdurrahman Nasser Ahmed Ismail, below 10, Hussein Nasser Ahmed, aged 13. They are sons of the defendant Nasser Ahmed, whom the police could not arrest. Among them was the hostage Abdu-Alsalam Ali Ahmed, aged 15. He is a nephew of Nasser and a brother of the hostage, Abdraboo Ahmed Mohammed at the same time. In fact, they were released upon our visit.
We found Khalid Ahmed Abdu Hashem below 15, in Rada’a prison, while he was coming to bring bed-needs to his imprisoned uncle; he was arrested by security guards and spent more than four months among killers and thieves. We also found the hostages Mohammed Nasser khasem and Abdulalem Ali Mohammed, who were taken on the basis of the Mayor’s orders and they have been imprisoned for more than four months. These hostages are mostly taken by security apparatuses while the court is unable to search prisons or release prisoners. These hostages are mostly either some relatives of the escaping defendants or from their tribal members. In fact, crime involves only one, according to abiding law, and no one should be punished or jailed except on the basis of law.
There are many unbearable shortcomings and defects that really kill innocents. Sorrowfully we have never witnessed any positive and effective actions to reduce such a phenomenon.
Q: On June 26, 2006, Mr. Hashed, you visited the Authority of Passports and Migration in Sana’a to conduct a field visit to the prison there. You intended to assess the condition of prisoners there after an Eritrean prisoner died under ambiguous circumstances. You report you were beaten and kicked by prison officials, arbitrarily detained and threatened with death. Mr. Hashed, why were you treated this way?
A: This happens in order that their crimes can’t recognize by the public opinion. Consequently, all the camera contents, which I had, were cancelled. These contents comprise a lot of scenes that unveil to how extent this authority is ugly. If a legal activist pays a sudden visit to these jails, this will scandalize the political system which pretends democracy and protection of rights and freedom. So, my being attacked could be a successful means for any legal activist who may ever think in a sudden visit to these places.
Q: I understand that Parliament refused to hear some evidence about this incident. Why do you think they refused the evidence and where does the case stand now?
A: This issue was refered to the committee of defense and security, which was heavily, biased towards the security apparatuses. The issue was initially rejected for being biased and untruthful. This committee is the same one which had been entrusted to investigate the murdering of my driver who is a relative of mine, Adel saleh and also the same committee entrusted with visiting the Political security Prison and investigating my arrest at the political security apparatus headquarters on the basis of my participation in a peaceful sit-in, protesting against Ali Aldailami’s arrest by the political security. AL.dailami was a legal activist and a chairman of the Yemen Association of defending rights and freedom. Instead of conducting investigation, the committee forced me to accept a tribal solution about my driver’s assassination and refused to investigate or visit the political security prison for solving the second issue (about my arrest) and it did nothing.
The committee really intended to get rid of the passports and migration issue and not to investigate. This is indicated by their refusal of being a companion to them. In fact, my intention was to direct them to the jailed who witness the crime. The committee refused to stop the jail-keeper till investigation ends. It shamefully changed the facts, refused investigating prisoners situations and was biased in all the proceedings, which is unveiled by the report it has made. Instead of discussing these facts, besides, my explanation of the report of the committee, the parliament authorized another committee to friendly solve my problems with the security committee which was formed for investigation.
It is in such a manner that the issue of prisoners’ situations was neglected, which was the stimulant of my visit to prisons, resulting to negligence of the attack I was subject to. It is in such a way that many issues of human rights discussed at the parliament are tackled. This is an aspect of a tragedy we experience and pay its cost every day.
Q. What are the other situations of these prisoners. How do the concerned Authorities treat them, what are the most repeated complaints?
A: Most prisoners complain that judgment apparatuses do not abide by law mainly concerning the dates fixed legal periods of reference and imprisonment and prolonged proceedings. Some prisoners complain of being let in without trial or investigation of negligence in following implementation of decrees and in release of prisoners after ending period of punishment. Judge and prosecution members do complain of procrastination, ascribing some of the above-mentioned defects to the fact that the number judgment cadres is limited, the judge appointed may be responsible for more than six or seven districts or his districts may be over-populated. This occurs at the expense of the prisoner’s freedom.
Other issues embodied by prisoners mixing with each other, wither children or adults. They are not specified on the basis of age, kind of crime, stage of proceedings. Others have completed their period of punishment and still imprisoned because of their poverty or inability to pay the costs even if these costs are little. They may stay for along time, wanting for their legal decrees to be issued. Other says they don’t know about contents of these decrees because they don’t receive copies of the original. Some of them say they are prevented, by the judge, to defend their selves, mal-treated during investigation and before they are sent to the public prosecution.
As for the foreigners who are arrested due to their illegal entrance to the country, they spend long periods in Yemen prison, waiting for years being freed; this subject motivated us to make a special page on “AL-Mostakela” to tackle problems of refuges in Yemen.