AL-MUKALLA: A Yemeni human rights group and relatives have accused the Iran-backed Houthis of torturing and killing a prisoner of war and then for years concealing his death from family.

The Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms said that Omar Ahmed Al-Samae, a Yemeni government fighter seized from a battlefield in the province of Saada in 2018, was mercilessly tortured before being murdered. The militia group later told his family that he was being held in jail.

But when his parents traveled from Taiz city to Sanaa to see their son, the Houthis escorted them to 48 Model Hospital’s mortuary and showed them his body. It was then that the relatives spotted clear signs of torture.

A medical report showed that Al-Samae had passed away on Nov. 16, 2020. However, the Houthis continued to demand money from his family to make them believe he was still alive, the rights network claimed.

In a statement, the network said: “During this time, the Houthi jail superintendent repeatedly asked the victim’s family for expenditures for their son Omar, despite the fact that Omar had died two years ago as a consequence of electric shock torture.”

The Yemeni organization’s officials have called for the creation of an international commission to investigate reports of abuse and fatalities among Houthi detainees.

The rights group recently claimed that since late 2014, the Houthis had executed 147 inmates in detention facilities, while 282 others had died while imprisoned as a result of negligence. A further 98 detainees were believed to have died within days of being released from Houthi custody.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned that three Yemeni journalists jailed by the Houthis could soon die after being placed in solitary confinement and tortured for weeks.

The freedom of information group said that the trio, among four journalists sentenced to death by a Houthi-run court two years ago, had been segregated from other prisoners and beaten, and it urged international mediators to assist in their release.

Jonathan Dagher, head of RSF’s Middle East desk, accused the Houthis of using the reporters as hostages to gain leverage in negotiations.

He said: “The Houthis are carrying out their death sentence slowly by torturing these journalists.

“We call on the UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to do everything possible to secure their immediate release, and we call on the Houthis to follow through on their own proposal to allow UN representatives to visit these hostages and to urgently allow a medical team to come and examine them.”

Separately, in the northern province of Hajjah, an explosive-rigged drone on Monday hit a school in Hairan district, killing a child and wounding three more.

Muammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s information minister, accused the Houthis of intentionally attacking civilian institutions as the school was not located near a military position or a battlefield.

He said the attack reaffirmed the group’s “disregard for calls and efforts for calm and peace.”