In mid-July, Amnesty International released a report documenting the plight of dozens of families in southern Yemen. Its title: “God Only Knows If He’s Alive.”

The report gives one testimonial after another from people whose loved ones have been tortured, killed or imprisoned by Yemeni security forces reporting to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that, with U.S. support, has been bombarding and blockading famine and disease-ravaged Yemen for three brutal years.

“Shouldn’t they be given a trial?” asks one woman, whose husband has been held incommunicado for more than two years. “Why else are there courts? They shouldn’t be disappeared this way — not only are we unable to visit them, we don’t even know if they are dead or alive.”

The Amnesty report implicates UAE-backed local forces in Yemen, as well as the UAE military, in the torture and other mistreatment of detainees. Of seven former or current detainees interviewed by Amnesty, five said they were subjected to these abuses.

“All seven witnessed other detainees being tortured,” the report adds, “including one who said he saw a detainee held in a cell next to him being carried away in a body bag after he had been repeatedly tortured.”

In June 2017, Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press exposed a network of clandestine prisons operated by the UAE in Yemen. Their reports described ghastly torture inflicted on prisoners and noted that senior U.S. military leaders knew about torture allegations.

A year later, there has been no investigation of these allegations by the Yemeni government, the UAE or the United States. The report calls on the U.S. to “facilitate independent oversight, including by the U.S. Congress, over U.S. military or intelligence cooperation with Yemen and UAE forces involved in detention activities in Yemen.” It also calls for investigating any involvement of U.S. military or intelligence personnel in detention-related abuses in Yemen.

The U.S. continues to sell weapons to the UAE and its coalition partner, Saudi Arabia, despite several congressional debates and a few increasingly close votes demanding a full or partial end to U.S. weapons sales.

Since March 2015, a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE — and relying on U.S. logistical aid — has bombarded Yemen while blockading its major port, despite Yemen’s status as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Targeting transportation, electrical plants, sewage and sanitation facilities, and schools, the vicious bombing has led to starvation, displacement, and the spread of diseases including cholera.

Many thousands of Yemenis, subjected to consistent bombing and threats of starvation and famine, have fled their homes and the country. For example, close to 500 Yemenis have traveled nearly 500 miles to reach a visa-free port on South Korea’s Jeju Island.

U.S. citizens bear responsibility for their government’s role in these abuses.

The Yemenis mean us no harm and have committed no crime against us. Ending arms sales to the UAE and Saudi monarchies, a move supported by both sides of the political aisle, will signal to the UAE and Saudi Arabia the U.S. will no longer assist their efforts to prolong war and siege in Yemen.

Conscious of the nightmare faced by Yemenis whose husbands, brothers, fathers and sons have disappeared or been detained by shadowy military enforcers, Americans should work toward implementing each recommendation in Amnesty’s devastating report.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( This column was written for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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