Looking the Devil in the Eye [Archives:1998/15/Viewpoint]

April 13 1998

One of the difficult moments in the life of any person is when he/she comes face to face with an evil person. Some people are so sadistic they are an incarnation of the devil. Indeed, some human beings are more evil than the devil himself. Some of us have met these people, and last week, I came face to face with some of these guys.
Along with two colleagues from the Consultative Council – Dr. Abubakar Al-Qirbi and Abdul-Malik Al-Mikhlafi – I went to Hodeidah to investigate reports about torture at the Hodeidah Investigations Office. Although we did not see everything, what we saw was enough to shock us all.
In one case, a person who was brutally beaten up will lose his leg. The doctors concluded that the injuries inflicted during the torture have resulted in gangrene, a disease which will kill the young man if the leg is not amputated.
In another case, the chest of a young man carried the marks of a knife that has been used to draw lines on his body.
In still another case, marks on the ankles and wrists show that a suspect was left hanging from the ceiling for hours.
In this day and age, it is not possible to remain silent when people are exposed to torture. It is against Yemeni law. It is against international law. It is immoral and unethical. It is not acceptable in any religion. YET IT CONTINUES.
The system in Sanaa should not remain aloof on this matter. I don’t think that the torture is politically motivated. I also don’t believe that President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the senior members of this government are fully aware of what is going on. But that does not relieve them of responsibility.
To torture another human being is probably the worst kind of crime in our modern age. To know that such affliction continues, and to look the other way is also a crime. This is the crime our political leaders commit. They must take immediate steps to bring an end to such horrendous practices.
That is why many of this country’s intellectuals and opinion makers are being mobilized. On Thursday April 16th, they will be shown the extent of the crime. They plan to launch the National Committee to Combat Torture.
The donor community and friends of Yemen can help. On the one hand, they can strengthen the investigative and documentation abilities of the National Committee to Combat Torture. At the same time, they can help by training our security officers on how to do interrogation without breaking the law.
Unless the Republic of Yemen takes decisive measures to stop this kind of abuse, its international image and position are bound to suffer. No country in the world would like to be seen as a friend of a regime that condones torture.
On this matter, the whole world is united.
The world sees torture is a heinous evil. It should be shunned. Combatting torture requires a clear commitment from our political leadership.
Does it have the will to do it?
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher