Amnesty International published an open source investigation on Wednesday, reporting on increasing violence and danger in the Yemen conflict, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ‘recklessly’ supporting militias with heavy and developed weapons.
The report said the UAE is a major conduit for heavily armoured vehicles, machine guns, and a mortar system, all of which are being illegally distributed to militias accused of committing war crimes and human rights violations.
The presence of heavily armed militias also increases the future threat to Yemenis, who are suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
“While the USA, the UK, France and other European states have rightly been criticised for supplying arms to coalition forces, and Iran has been implicated in sending arms to the Houthis, a deadly new threat is emerging. Yemen is quickly becoming a safe-haven for UAE-backed militias that are largely unaccountable,” said Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
The human rights organisation also urged Western governments to stop supplying weapons to parties involved in the conflict in Yemen after reports that they were ending up in the hands of extremist groups.
“Emirati forces receive billions of dollars’ worth of arms from Western states and others, only to syphon them off to militias in Yemen that answer to no one and are known to be committing war crimes,” the report read.
“The proliferation of these fighting forces is a recipe for disaster for Yemeni civilians who have already been killed in their thousands, while millions more are on the brink of famine as a direct result of the war,” the human rights group said.
The UAE government media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Amnesty statement.
The UAE has trained and armed thousands of militias, especially the Giants, the Security Belt and Elite Forces, mostly in southern provinces and western coastal areas, as part of the forces battling the Houthis, who control most urban areas including the capital Sanaa and the main port of Hudaida.
The UAE backed militias operate secret prisons also known as ‘black sites’.
At these prisons, people are exposed to the torture techniques including electric shocks, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement and a lack of food and water.
The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, has been at war in Yemen with the Houthis since 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.
Some Western nations, many of which provide weapons and intelligence to the coalition, have pressed for an end to the almost four-year war, particularly after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi increased scrutiny of Saudi activities in the region. However, several other Western countries, including the US and the UK, have continued supplying weapons.