Timeline: UAE’s role in southern Yemen’s secret prisons
25 March 2015
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen begins, with an aerial campaign and naval blockade targeting the Huthis and allied forces.
The “liberation” of the southern city of Aden by Yemeni and coalition forces is announced on 17 July, shortly after the arrival of United Arab Emirates (UAE) ground troops. Analysis of satellite imagery from the time shows the installation of the perimeter for the UAE base in Aden’s Bureiqa district, and later imagery shows the construction and expansion of a detention centre there.
UAE-backed Security Belt Forces are formed (now totalling up to 15,000 troops active in several southern governorates, including Aden, Lahj, and Abyan).
Construction starts on a detention facility in the UAE/coalition base in Aden’s Bureiqa district, according to satellite imagery analysis. Imagery shows the detention area expanding throughout 2016 and early 2017, aligning with the waves of arrests documented by Amnesty International and others.
UAE ground forces, backed by air support, wage a successful operation to retake al-Mukalla, Hadramawt from al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The UAE-trained and funded Hadrami Elite Forces, established earlier that year, play a key role in the battle.
The UAE establishes, trains and funds the Shabwani Elite Forces.
On 12 July, Yemeni security forces violently disperse a demonstration by female relatives of detainees outside a UAE base in Aden. Mothers, sisters and wives of detainees have held regular protests in Aden and al-Mukalla since 2016.
Yemen’s Prosecutor General reopens prosecution offices in Aden and other southern governorates that had been closed amid the conflict.
Yemeni prosecutors gain access to at least two UAE-supervised detention facilities in Aden. They begin interrogating hundreds of detainees and issuing release orders.
Hundreds of detainees who had been forcibly disappeared for months are moved from unofficial detention facilities to newly constructed Bir Ahmed II in Aden and the Central Prison in al-Mukalla, Hadramawt.
Families granted access to visit detainees in Bir Ahmed II.
The International Committee of the Red Cross visits Bir Ahmed II – the first reported access by an international entity to a UAE-supervised detention facility in southern Yemen.
10 March 2018
UAE troops raid Bir Ahmed II, forcing detainees to strip naked and undergo cavity searches. Detainees subsequently go on hunger strike and demand their captors implement the release orders issued by Yemeni prosecutors.
Scores of detainees are released from formal and informal detention facilities run by UAE-backed local forces and the UAE military.