Amnesty International calls on Yemen Houthis to immediately release arbitrarily detained UN staff News
Hamza Shiban, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Amnesty International calls on Yemen Houthis to immediately release arbitrarily detained UN staff

Amnesty International called Thursday for Houthi authorities in Yemen to immediately release detained staff from the UN and civil society organizations. Amnesty’s call comes one month after the workers’ arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances following raids on homes and offices.

According to Amnesty, Houthi authorities have detained 13 UN staff and at least 14 staff from Yemeni and international civil society organizations. Between May 31 and June 9, Houthi authorities conducted a series of nighttime raids on the detainees’ homes and the offices of UN agencies and other local and international organizations in the cities of Sana’a, Hodiedah and Hajjah.

The Houthis are holding the detained staff incommunicado. They have denied the detained staff access to legal counsel and refused to disclose their whereabouts to their families. According to an HRW investigation, these conditions meet the criteria for enforced disappearances, which are a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Houthi authorities have targeted humanitarian workers before, notably arresting and detaining four Yemeni UN staff members in 2021 and 2023 and holding them incommunicado in arbitrary detention since. A Houthi media campaign has accused human rights and humanitarian agencies of “conspiring against the country’s interest,” which has led staff to fear the risk of arrest and reprisal for their work.

The arrests and detentions come as the Houthis face increased economic difficulties and retaliatory airstrikes due to their attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea amidst the Israel-Hamas war. The actions of Houthi authorities are being seen as an attempt to distract from their governance failures, in particular after a humanitarian aid pause by the World Food Programme (WFP) following concerns over aid manipulation.

Amnesty International has said that the Houthis have continued to restrict the delivery and movement of humanitarian aid by imposing bureaucratic constraints, cancelling humanitarian initiatives and imposing the male guardian requirement on Yemeni women humanitarian workers traveling across the country.

“This chilling wave of arrests targeting the human rights and humanitarian community is yet another stark reminder of the lengths the Huthi authorities will go to in their crackdown on civil society,” said Diala Haidar, Yemen Researcher at AI. “Huthi authorities must immediately release all UN and civil society workers who have been detained solely for their human rights and humanitarian work and end their ongoing crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and association.”