Yemen: UN Secretary General demands the release of aid workers detained by the Houthis

Four additional UN staff have been detained and held incommunicado by de facto authorities since 2021 and 2023 without access to their families or their respective organizations and agencies.

This is an alarming development that raises serious concerns about the Houthis’ commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict.. The United Nations condemns all acts of arbitrary detention of civilians.” Mr. Guterres said. “I demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained United Nations personnel.”

The UN chief’s appeal came as he met with his representatives. Special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, in Jordan. They discussed recent developments in Yemen, including the de facto government’s escalating crackdown on civilian space, which has reportedly led to the arbitrary detention of dozens of United Nations staff , NGOs and aid workers.

United Nations and civil society targeting

The Office of the Special Envoy noted that the four staff members detained before the latest arrests all worked for the United Nations’ educational, scientific and cultural agency, UNESCOand the United Nations human rights office, OHCHR.

The 13 UN staff arrested in the past few days include six OHCHR staff, one from the Office of the Special Envoy (OSESGY), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations World Food Program (WFP), United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and two from UNESCO. At least 11 civil society workers were also arrested.

During the meeting between the Secretary-General and Mr. Grundberg, the Special Envoy briefed on efforts to secure the release of personnel, including a meeting on Monday with Mohamed Abdul Salam, chief Houthi negotiator , in Muscat. He also met with senior Omani officials to solicit support.

“We are working diligently to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of our detained personnel through all available channels,” Mr. Grundberg told UN News. told UN News, and called for the release of all arrested NGO workers.

During the meeting, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy also emphasized that the United Nations stands in solidarity with all humanitarian workers and civil society organizations who play a vital role in providing providing support and relief to the people of Yemen.

The call of the human rights leader

Responding to calls for the immediate release of all detainees, UN human rights chief Volker Türk expressed deep concern about the conditions of their detention, and denied false accusations about their activities.

Two of the UN staff detained last week were women, along with at least one other female civil society worker, the High Commissioner for Human Rights continued, as he stressed the need for an immediate termination. “any further targeting” of human rights and aid workers in Yemen.

The UN human rights office has been working in Yemen since 2012, Türk noted, “to promote and protect the rights of all Yemenis, including through engagement with other actual function”.

Impact of humanitarian crisis

This development has added to concerns about the humanitarian emergency in Yemen, where needs remain great.

After nearly a decade of conflict between the internationally recognized government and despite ceasefire conditions largely remaining in place, aid groups have repeatedly warned that 17.6 million people – half the population in Yemen – faces food insecurity and nearly half of children under 5 years old suffer from moderate food shortages. to severe stunting.

According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Aid, OCHA4.5 million people remain displaced across the Arabian peninsula country, many of whom have been displaced multiple times over the years, due to the more than nine-year conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi authorities de facto control of the capital, Sana’a, and other areas of the country.

A plea from a top aid official

According to the UN’s top aid official, the recent wave of detentions could have a negative impact on an already dire situation.

“Aid workers are always neutral in a conflict. Their safety and the safety of the civilians they serve must be guaranteed,” said Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, for UN News. Ahead of Muslim celebrations of Eid al-Adha starting this weekend, he added: “My heart goes out to the families of the detained staff, who fear for the well-being of their loved ones their love instead of celebrating Eid al-Adha together.”

Peace moves

During his press conference with Security Council Last month, UN Special Envoy Grundberg noted that the warring parties had agreed to a number of commitments in December, including a nationwide ceasefire and an inclusive political process under the auspices of the United Nations. United Nations.

However, he warned that announcements by Ansar Allah – the official name of the Houthi movement – ​​to expand the scope of attacks on shipping in the Red Sea were a “worrying provocation in an already unstable”.

On Tuesday, Mr. Grundberg told UN News that recent arrests hindered his efforts and eroded trust. However, he noted that efforts to convene the parties to resolve key issues related to the economy, a nationwide ceasefire and launch negotiations aimed at achieving a sustainable political solution will continue for the benefit of the Yemeni people.


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