Houthi rebels Yemen
Houthi militants ride in a patrol truck in Sana'a REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Houthi rebels in Yemen, with support from forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions of their opponents, an Amnesty International report has said. The report examined 60 individual cases from December 2014 to March 2016 and found a pattern of arrests and enforced disappearances in the cities of Sanaa, Ibb, Ta'iz and Hodeida.

The people targeted included politicians, journalists and academics and many have been detained for prolonged periods of time in makeshift detention centres and have been transferred many times around different locations, the document says.

The rebel group conducted a "chilling campaign to quash dissent" in areas of Yemen under its control.

Eighteen people whose cases have been featured in the report are still being held while the whereabouts of three are unknown. A 21-year-old student Abdul-ilah Saylan, arrested outside Sana'a in August 2015 was beaten by the rebels in front of his family.

Speaking to Amnesty International, a family member said, "The guard began to beat him. Three other guards joined in and we watched...as the four guards beat him viciously. They dragged him back inside when he fainted and told us to go home."

Houthi officials told the human rights organisation that the reason they were being detained was "because they gave GPS coordinates to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition".

James Lynch, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International, said, "Houthi forces have presided over a brutal and deliberate campaign targeting their political opponents and other critics since December 2014."

He added, "Hundreds of people have been rounded up and held without charge or trial, and in some cases they have been forcibly disappeared in flagrant violation of international law."

In September 2014, Houthi rebels seized control of Sana'a and have been waging a war against the Yemeni government and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

In March 2016, the UN reported "twice as many deaths" occurred because of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition strikes in Yemen. So far, at least 6,500 people have been killed including 3,218 civilians.