Houthi Authorities Arrest 12 UN and civil Society Staff
  • 08/06/2024
  •  https://samrl.org/l?e5286 
    SAM |

    Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties stated that the security and intelligence apparatus of the Houthis carried out on Thursday, June 6, a raid and arrest campaign that targeted 12 employees working in United Nations agencies, in a surprising crackdown that constitutes a flagrant violation of the immunities and diplomatic privileges enjoyed by United Nations agency personnel.

    In a concise statement, Stéphane Dujarric, the United Nations spokesperson, confirmed that the Houthi de facto authorities detained 11 local UN staff members working in Yemen. He added that they are pursuing all available channels to secure the safe and unconditional release of all of them as soon as possible.

    According to relatives and colleagues of some of the detainees, as reported to Human Rights Watch, the Houthi authorities have not disclosed the whereabouts of the individuals they have arrested and have not allowed them to communicate with their employers or families. The authorities' refusal to reveal the location or fate of the detainees could amount to extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance under international law.

    According to sources, Houthi elements raided the home of Wadhah Awon, the head of the Information Technology department at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. They searched his residence, tampered with his belongings, and confiscated his personal phone, computer, and family's cash. They also seized his wife's phone and the phones of several of his relatives before arresting him and taking him to an unknown location.

    Nico Hailey, the Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch, highlighted that such arrests not only violate the rights of the individuals but also undermine humanitarian work and fundamental human rights in Yemen, at a time when the majority of Yemenis are not receiving enough of the basic necessities such as food and water.

    The SAM organization stated that the Houthis' arrest of employees working in United Nations agencies constitutes a flagrant violation of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The Convention stipulates that their personnel cannot be arrested or detained, nor can their personal belongings be seized. They also cannot be legally prosecuted for any official acts, statements, or written materials. Additionally, the Convention states that their papers and documents must not be interfered with.

    The SAM organization obtained a list of the names of some abducted employees working for UN, international, and local organizations, following a widespread campaign of Houthi raids on the employees' homes and workplaces in Sanaa. The list was published by journalist Faris Al-Hameiri on his X platform account, and includes the following:

    Six employees working for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Three employees working for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

    Three employees working for the American Democratic Institute

    Two employees working for the Social Development Fund, one of whom is Yemeni with British nationality

    Four other employees working for other organizations

    The SAM organization stated that these Houthi actions are part of the ongoing violations faced by humanitarian workers. The Houthis had previously arrested several people working with Yemeni civil society organizations just last week. In October 2023, Hisham Al-Hakimi, an employee of Save the Children, died while being detained by the Houthis after being arbitrarily detained since September 9, 2023. Three UN employees also remain arbitrarily detained by the Houthis - one since November 2021 and two since August 2023, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Tawfiq Al-Humaidi, the president of the SAM organization, said: "We and Yemeni civil society are deeply concerned about the recent arbitrary detentions that humanitarian workers are being subjected to. The Houthi group's treatment is characterized by cruelty and vengeance, sometimes even reaching the extent of issuing death sentences, as happened with the activist Fatima Al-Arawli, the president of the Mawil Development and Rights Association, and Mohammed Hadi Thafir, a volunteer with the Red Crescent in Saada governorate. In other cases, the Houthi group practices torture methods leading to death against the detainees, as happened with 'Hisham Al-Hakimi' who is a prominent example of this cruelty. Therefore, there must be an urgent move to release those who have been arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared, as this constitutes a serious violation of international and national law."

    SAM expressed its strong condemnation of the incident in its conclusion, calling on the Houthi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the detainees. It also called for an end to the harassment of humanitarian workers and for providing all the necessary facilitations to enable them to carry out their duties smoothly and comfortably.

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