Behind prison bars lays the absolute humanitarian suffering and the real test of humankind conscience. In addition to the crimes of arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, torture, murder by torture, mistreatment, and prevention of lawful and legal rights, there is the financial extortion. Extortion is a different kind of suffering for it includes not only the abductees, but their families too. Many families of the abductees and forcibly hidden detainees have been extorted once the abduction occurred, which caused a financial downfall for these families.
Families are forced to sell their own properties of estates and jewels in order to be able to pay certain amounts of money requested by Houthi middlemen, Houthi officers, or prison wardens in exchange for having their and their sons’ basic rights stated in international agreements such as; the disclosure of the whereabouts of the forcibly hidden individuals, permitting visits, stopping torture, providing clothes, food, clean water, and medications. After taking the money handed in by families, Houthi middlemen and prison wardens mostly never fulfill their promises. Only 8% of the extortion victims were released after a long time of abduction.
In one of the cases reported to Abductees’ Mothers Association, the abductee M. J’s attorney, who was pursuing the abductee’s file case, said “Houthi armed group extorted my client’s family. They had to pay approximately 12 million Yemeni Rial to release him. Yet, he was included in a prisoners’ exchange deal after two years of detention”.
Abductee Y. A’s wife said “We paid 2 million to Houthis so he would be released or at least we would know something about him, whether he is dead or alive. However, we have got nothing”.
Inside prisons, Houthis deliberately and systematically starve abductees, and intentionally provide unhealthy food to force abductees to buy their meals from a small prison shop, or pay guards to get them to buy the food which usually costs triple the normal price. Moreover, Houthi officers and wardens confiscate the little money families provide they sons with.
Abductees and their families have been also psychologically extorted and threatened by Houthi armed group and different military organizations. They were forced to cover these violations from media and international human rights organizations resulting in fear of reporting or complaining to relevant parties. Therefore, abductees’ families live in constant distress affecting family members, and cause insecurity.
Abductees’ Mothers Association’s researches have revealed that Houthi armed group purposely abducted members of wealthy families only to gain some money out of it. Figures show that there have been 563 cases of financial extortion committed by this armed group.
Extortion is crime punished by the law. It has been considered one of the most serious offenses as it affects the security and stability of society, and is punished with twelve-year imprisonment by the law.
Abductees’ Mothers Association continues, through its rallies and statements, to demand international human rights organizations to pressure Houthi armed group and prison wardens to release the abductees and forcibly hidden detainees, and work to stop families’ suffering, and to visit detention centers to disclose the misery they live in.