Yemen Houthi rebels detain 11 UN employees amid heightened tensions News
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Yemen Houthi rebels detain 11 UN employees amid heightened tensions

Houthi rebels have detained 11 UN personnel working in Yemen according to UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric on Friday.

Dujarric confirmed the Yemeni authorities’ report that at least nine personnel had been detained, expressing grave concern over the situation. He stated, “We are very concerned about these developments, and we’re actively seeking clarification from the Houthi de facto authorities regarding the circumstances of these detentions and, most importantly, to ensure the immediate access to those UN personnel.” Dujarric further emphasized that the UN is pursuing all available channels to secure their safe and unconditional release as rapidly as possible.

Nine of the detained employees are men and two are women. Six of the individuals worked for the UN’s human rights agencies, including the UN Special Envoy’s Office, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and UNESCO. The detentions were part of a broader crackdown by the Houthis, which included employees of other international aid groups.

The Mayyun Organization for Human Rights also reported the detentions, condemning the actions as violations of the privileges and immunities granted to UN employees under international law. The organization described the detentions as “oppressive” practices “aimed at obtaining political and economic gains.”

Other aid organizations, including Save the Children and CARE International, have also reported the detention of their staff. Save the Children expressed deep concern over the whereabouts of one of their staff members and is working to ensure their safety. CARE International similarly reported the detention of one of its staff members without any provided reason and is seeking more information.

The detentions come as the Houthis face increased economic difficulties and retaliatory airstrikes due to their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthis have been targeting commercial ships amidst the Israel-Hamas war, drawing significant international attention but also cracking down on dissent within Yemen.

The US Central Command reported that the Houthis launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles recently that caused no damage, while US forces destroyed two missiles, five drones, and one patrol boat. Concurrently, the Houthis have faced new US-led airstrikes targeting their positions around Hodeida and the capital Sana’a.

Human Rights Watch criticized the Houthis for not revealing the locations of the detained individuals or allowing them to communicate with their families. Activists and lawyers have initiated an online campaign, calling for the immediate release of the detainees, warning that such actions could further isolate Yemen from the international community.

The situation remains fluid, with the international community closely monitoring developments and urging the Houthis to release the detained UN employees and aid workers to ensure the continuity of critical humanitarian operations in Yemen.