This week, thanks to excellent reporting by The Associated Press, we learned of horrific conditions and brutal torture at 18 prisons around Yemen that are run by the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally, or by UAE-trained Yemeni officials. What’s more, the U.S. confirmed to the AP that U.S. personnel take part in interrogations in Yemen, submit questions to be asked, and receive videos and transcripts of interrogations.
This has set off alarm bells about possible U.S. complicity in or benefit from the torture of Yemenis in the secret prison network. That’s why today we filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the U.S. government to turn over all records relating to interrogations in Yemen
A senior Yemeni military official stated that the United States had sent authorities a list of “most wanted men” — including many who were later detained. In addition, according to multiple senior Yemeni officials, U.S. officials themselves conducted interrogations of detainees on ships off the coast of Yemen.
U.S. military officials reportedly investigated reports of torture and found that it did not happen in the presence of American personnel. The ACLU’s FOIA request covers the results of any investigations and interrogations, as well as any policies on the U.S. role in detention and interrogation at the sites.
The AP article also said there were reports of some interrogations on a ship at sea with or by people described as American “‘psychological experts.’” On behalf of three victims of the CIA’s former torture program, the ACLU has sued the two psychologists who devised and helped implement that program. The new FOIA request was filed with the CIA as well.
The FOIA request also asks for records relating to U.S. transfers of people for arrest, detention, or interrogation by Yemeni or Emirati personnel, and it also covers records related to U.S. training of Yemeni or Emirati personnel engaged in detention or interrogation.
Relatives and attorneys told The AP that some 2,000 men had been sent to the secret prison network, many never heard from again.
As the United States surely knows from its own shameful history of proxy detention and secret CIA prisons, international law bars not only torture, but also complicity or benefit from torture. If the U.S. knew or should have known its allies were engaged in torture, the last thing it should have done is turn a blind eye.