The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the UN Security Council to investigate the case of a Yemeni journalist who died from torture while detained by Houthi rebels, according to Nabil Alosaidi, co-chair of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate.
Anwar al-Rakan died June 2, two days after being released by the Ansar Allah movement, commonly known as the Houthis, according to a statement from the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate sent to CPJ and to news reports.
Alosaidi told CPJ that according to al-Rakan’s family, the journalist was abducted approximately one year ago because he was found in possession of a press card from the syndicate. Alosaidi told CPJ that the family did not know what happened to him until the Houthis contacted them and told them he was being transferred to a local hospital. CPJ could not confirm the exact date of al-Rakan’s disappearance.
According to the syndicate’s statement, Belqees TV, and the independent Yemeni newspaper Al-Masdar, al-Rakan’s health deteriorated sharply as a result of severe torture while detained, leading to his release shortly before his death. His family quoted the medical report in telling the syndicate that he died from the effects of torture, and photos of al-Rakan’s severely emaciated corpse have circulated online and over social media. According to the Yemeni news website Al-Sahwa and Belqees TV, al-Rakan had previously worked for the government-run newspaper Al-Gomhouria.
The Houthis did not immediately respond to CPJ’s questions sent via email to the group’s spokesman.
“Even by the standards of Yemen’s civil war the year-long torture and deprivation suffered by journalist Anwar al-Rakan marks a new low,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “We call on the Houthis to stop targeting the press and to release the 11 journalists reported to be in their custody. The Houthis ultimately must be held accountable for the treatment of journalists in the areas they control.”
The Houthis have been responsible for the detention and abduction of a number of journalists since seizing control of Sanaa and Yemen’s north and west in 2014, and journalists held in Houthi custody have faced beatings and torture.