Home/Daniel Larison/A Very Unsatisfying U.S. Response to the UAE’s Torture Prisons

A Very Unsatisfying U.S. Response to the UAE’s Torture Prisons

Last week, Amnesty International condemned the UAE and its proxies for war crimes in its report on the torture prisons they were running in Yemen. The UAE has denied for years that it was even in charge of these prions and rejected the report’s conclusions. This week, the head of Central Command says that he is “satisfied” with the UAE’s response:

A top US general said Thursday he is “satisfied” with the United Arab Emirates’ response following a report alleging human rights violations in a string of Emirati-run prisons in Yemen.

Amnesty International last week published a report calling for investigations into a network of unofficial prisons across southern Yemen where it said “egregious violations” have been committed, including enforced disappearances and torture.

The UAE has dismissed the report as politically motivated and said it does not manage or run any prisons in the war-torn country.

General Joe Votel, who heads the US Central Command that oversees US operations in the Middle East, said he had spoken to Emirati counterparts on the issue.

“I am satisfied that the appropriate investigations are underway to determine the facts associated with this,” Votel told Pentagon reporters.

“We have the confidence that (the Emiratis) will continue to operate in a manner that befits their values and ours.”

The UAE’s response to the charges has been to deny all responsibility and attack those who have credibly accused them as liars. This can’t be satisfactory to the U.S. unless the U.S. is implicated in some way in the UAE’s crimes in these prisons. There is reason to think that the U.S. is complicit to some degree in the torture of Yemeni detainees based on the accounts of detainees and Yemeni officials:

In the same city, at the UAE-run prison inside the Buriqa military base, two prisoners told the AP they think that American personnel in uniform must be aware of the torture – either because they have heard screams or seen marks of torture.” Prisoners said that they haven’t seen Americans directly involved in the abuse.

“Americans use Emiratis as gloves to do their dirty work,” said one senior security official at the Riyan Prison in the city of Mukalla. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

Support for the UAE’s attempts to cover up and deny their role in all of this from a high-ranking U.S. officer supports the conclusion that at least some U.S. personnel knew about these abuses.

Whenever members of the Saudi coalition are credibly accused of violating human rights and committing war crimes against Yemenis, their first response is to deny everything. If they even bother to conduct an investigation for the sake of appearances, it is guaranteed to find that they did nothing wrong. The UAE has no interest in an investigation to “determine the facts” about its abuses in these prisons because the facts are damning and prove that their government and its proxies are guilty of terrible crimes. We already know that the UAE and their proxies haven’t been conducting themselves in a manner that “befits our values,” and U.S. cooperation with their government needs to be reassessed in light of the evidence that their forces have been torturing dozens of people in Yemen.

The UAE certainly can’t be relied on to investigate itself in this matter, and the U.S. shouldn’t be satisfied with their self-serving denials. These torture prisons are one of the uglier aspects of the indefensible war on Yemen, and they are one more reason why the U.S. should halt its support for the UAE and the rest of the coalition at once.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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