In a report, Human Rights Watch condemned the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-backed forces in the war-torn Yemen for their series of violations against Yemeni civilians in the far east of Al Mahrah Governorate.
The New York-based organization published on Wednesday that the violations include arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and unlawful transfer of detainees from Yemen to Saudi Arabia.
“The grave violations committed by the Saudi forces and their Yemeni allies against the local skilled population are another terrifying addition to the list of illegal conduct of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” said Michael Page, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East.
He added, “Saudi Arabia severely damages its reputation with the Yemenis when it implements these arbitrary practices and does not hold any of them accountable.”
The report comes on the eve of the fifth anniversary, on Thursday, since the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in March 2015 launched an air campaign against the Houthis.
The isolated eastern Mahrah area, adjacent to the Sultanate of Oman and Saudi Arabia, is the second largest governorate by area in Yemen.
In December 2017, Saudi forces arrived in Mahra and took control of the airport in the regional capital, Ghida.
However, the residents opposed what they repeatedly called the “Saudi” occupation.
In May 2018, leaders of the Yemeni community in the governorate began organizing peaceful demonstrations against the presence of Saudi forces, and established a group they called a “peaceful sit-in committee.”
According to Human Rights Watch, journalists and activists present at the sit-ins were targeted by Yemeni-backed Saudi and Saudi forces, and subjected to torture, beatings, electric shocks, and threats to harm their family members, inside a detention center at the airport.
Yemeni forces, supported by Saudi Arabia, arrested one of the protesters, whose nickname “Farouk”, last June, and he was taken to a detention center at the airport.
He told Human Rights Watch, “I was interrogated in a room by a member of the Saudi army.” And he said, “They know who I am because they photographed me in the demonstrations and got to know my face.”
“Farouk” said that the Saudis tried to force him to sign a pledge that he and his family members would not participate in anti-coalition protests.
“I refused to sign because our demonstrations are peaceful,” he added.