Senators Seek Probe of Torture Reports 06/24 09:57
Pressure mounted Friday on the Defense Department after multiple U.S.
senators called for investigations into reports that U.S. military
interrogators worked with forces from the United Arab Emirates who are accused
of torturing detainees in Yemen.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pressure mounted Friday on the Defense Department after
multiple U.S. senators called for investigations into reports that U.S.
military interrogators worked with forces from the United Arab Emirates who are
accused of torturing detainees in Yemen.
John McCain, Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and
the ranking Democrat, Jack Reed, called the reports "deeply disturbing."
The reports were revealed in an investigation by The Associated Press
That same day, McCain and Reed wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Jim
Mattis asking him to conduct an immediate review of the reported abuse and what
U.S. forces knew.
"Even the suggestion that the United States tolerates torture by our foreign
partners compromises our national security mission by undermining the moral
principle that distinguishes us from our enemies--- our belief that all people
possess basic human rights," the senators wrote Mattis . "We are confident that
you find these allegations as extremely troubling as we do."
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations
Committee, also called for an investigation and noted that support for the UAE
forces could violate a law he wrote that forbids funding to known human rights
"Reports of acts of torture by agents of a government that is supported by
the United States, and the possibility that U.S. military personnel may have
been aware of it, should ring alarm bells at the Department of Defense," Leahy
said in a statement to the AP.
The AP's report detailed a network of secret prisons across southern Yemen
where hundreds are detained in the hunt for al-Qaida militants and held without
charges. American defense officials confirmed to the AP that U.S. forces have
interrogated some detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in, or
knowledge of, human rights abuses.
Defense officials told the AP that the department had looked into reports of
torture and concluded that its personnel were not involved or aware of any
abuse. The American officials confirmed that the U.S. provides questions to the
Emiratis and receives transcripts of their interrogations. The officials said
the U.S. also provides information to the UAE on suspected al-Qaida militants
that the U.S. believes should be picked up or questioned.
Yemeni Brig. Gen. Farag Salem al-Bahsani, commander of the Mukalla-based 2nd
Military District, told the AP that many of those men were later arrested.
"I'm troubled by the Pentagon's legalistic responses to these reports that
U.S. officials worked in facilities where torture was widespread," Democratic
Sen. Ron Wyden said in a statement. "U.S. allies have an obligation not to
torture and the bar for the U.S. is higher than 'torture is OK if we don't see
The American Civil Liberties Union also said Friday that it had filed a
Freedom of Information Act request for U.S. records related to the
The 18 lock-ups are run by the UAE and by Yemeni forces it created,
according to accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil
rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. At the Riyan airport in the
southern Yemeni city of Mukalla, former inmates described shipping containers
smeared with feces and crammed with blindfolded detainees. They said they were
beaten, roasted alive on a spit and sexually assaulted, among other abuse. One
witness, who is a member of a Yemeni security force, said American forces were
at times only yards (meters) away.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Friday that the
allegations are "completely untrue" and a "political game" by Yemeni militias
to discredit a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE. It says it does not
run or oversee any prisons in Yemen, and that any such facilities are under
"the jurisdiction of the Yemeni legitimate authorities."
Most of the clandestine sites are run by either the Hadramawt Elite or
Security Belt, Yemeni forces that were created, trained and financed by the
UAE. Officially, they are under the authority of Yemen's internationally
recognized government, but multiple Yemeni government officials told the AP
they have no control over them and they answer to the Emiratis.
At least three of the prisons, however, are directly run by the Emirates,
along with a fourth prison housing Yemenis at an Emirati base in Eritrea,
according to four senior Yemeni government and military officials, former
detainees and families of prisoners.
At Riyan Airport prison in the southern Yemeni city of Mukalla, six former
detainees described hundreds of prisoners held in shipping containers and gave
extensive accounts of abuses, saying the officers in charge and those
conducting interrogations were Emiratis. Families held frequent protests
outside Riyan seeking news about loved ones imprisoned there. Several relatives
of prisoners told the AP that they spoke repeatedly with the Emirati officer in
charge of the site, who identified himself only by a pseudonym, Abu Ahmed,
trying to secure their relatives' release.
The former detainees and the relatives of prisoners spoke on condition of
anonymity fearing retaliation against themselves or their loved ones.
"We request that you direct an immediate review of the facts and
circumstances related to these alleged abuses, including U.S. support to the
Emirati and Yemeni partner forces that were purportedly involved," the
McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, was captured after his plane
was shot down in 1967. He was imprisoned for more than five and half years and
tortured repeatedly before he was released in 1973. In the Senate, McCain has
criticized harsh treatment of terror suspects by the CIA at "black site"
prisons and was a key sponsor of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act prohibiting
inhumane treatment of prisoners.