A UN body that tracks forced disappearance has reiterated its call to Yemen to produce a US citizen who has been missing from a prison in the country for nearly nine months.
Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by lawyers from legal charity Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana’a’s central prison. When they returned three weeks later, they were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s family and lawyers to trace him have since failed.
Further questions were raised in July about a possible US role in the disappearance, when US diplomats in Yemen admitted to Reprieve that they had been in contact with Mr Mobley, but refused to reveal where he is being held. In August, the Yemeni court heard – in comments that the judge subsequently ordered to be struck from the record – that Mr Mobley may have been transferred to face trial before the Specialized Criminal Court, a secretive, US-funded body that has been criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for failing to meet international fair trial standards.
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The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has submitted a dossier of facts on the case to Yemen and the US regarding Mr Mobley’s disappearance. The submission, made earlier this month, follows the group’s launching of an investigation in May, and a request that Yemen ensure Mr Mobley would not be detained arbitrarily, or subject to unfair legal proceedings.
Mr Mobley’s ordeal began in January 2010 when he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from outside his house in Sana’a, shot in the leg and held incommunicado for several months. Logs released under a US Freedom of Information request revealed that two US agents interrogated Mr Mobley in secret detention. Since mid-2010, he has faced charges relating to the death of a Yemeni police officer in the course of an alleged escape attempt from hospital, where Mr Mobley was being treated after a beating in detention.
Mr Mobley disappeared on the eve of a court hearing at which his Yemeni lawyer was due to present evidence of the US authorities’ role in his original disappearance. The judge in the trial is thought to be deliberating over the legality of Mr Mobley’s original arrest, shooting and secret detention, which violated several provisions of Yemen’s laws and constitution.
Cori Crider, Mr Mobley’s lawyer and Strategic Director at Reprieve, said: “It’s hard to believe that, nine months on from Sharif Mobley’s disappearance, we are no closer to the Yemeni government admitting where they have taken our client. Mr Mobley’s family and lawyers need immediate access to him to determine how he has been treated, and why he disappeared on the eve of a crucial hearing. We can only hope that this ongoing UN intervention spurs the US and the Yemenis to reveal their role in this murky affair.”