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Yemen: Houthis Detain UN Staff and Civil Society Representatives

Human RightsYemen: Houthis Detain UN Staff and Civil Society Representatives

(Beirut) – Houthi authorities have reportedly raided the homes and offices of at least a dozen employees of various United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations on June 6, 2024, including at least nine UN employees, detaining them, in Sanaa, Hodeidah, Saada, and Amran in Yemen. Houthi authorities appear to be arbitrarily detaining the individuals based on their employment. The Houthis, who control Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, as well as much of northern Yemen, have disappeared, arbitrarily detained, and tortured hundreds of civilians, including UN workers and workers for nongovernmental agencies, since the start of Yemen’s conflict in 2014.

Family members and colleagues of some of those detained told Human Rights Watch that Houthi authorities have not revealed the locations of the people they detained or allowed them to communicate with their employers or families. The authorities’ refusal to reveal the whereabouts or fate of detainees can amount to enforced disappearance under international law. In one case, the Houthis also detained the husband and two children, a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old, of a woman who works with a civil society organization in Yemen, according to a friend who spoke to Human Rights Watch.

The following quote can be attributed to Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch:

“The Houthis should immediately release any UN employees and workers for other independent groups they have detained because of their human rights and humanitarian work and stop arbitrarily detaining and forcibly disappearing people. Such detentions not only attack the rights of these individuals but also undermine essential humanitarian and human rights work in Yemen at a time when the majority of Yemenis do not have adequate access to basic necessities like food and water.”

The Houthis also detained several people working with Yemeni civil society organizations over the last week. In October 2023, Hisham al-Hakimi, an employee of Save the Children, died in Houthi custody after being arbitrarily detained since September 9, 2023. Three UN staff have remained arbitrarily detained by the Houthis – one since November 2021 and two since August 2023.

Arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearance of civilians are serious violations of international law.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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