UN chief demands release of aid workers held by Houthis – Global Issues


Four additional UN staff have been 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 any arbitrary detention of civilians.” said Mr. Guterres. “I demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained UN personnel.”

The UN chief’s call came as he met his own Special Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, in Jordan. They discussed recent developments in Yemen, including an escalating crackdown on civil space by de facto authorities, which has reportedly led to the arbitrary detention of dozens of UN, NGO and aid workers.

The UN and civil society were targeted

The Office of the Special Envoy noted that the four staff members arrested before the latest detentions worked for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCOand the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR.

The thirteen UN staff members arrested in recent days include six from OHCHR, one each from the Office of the Special Envoy (OSESGY), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Program (WFP) and two from UNESCO. At least eleven civil society workers were also arrested.

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

“We are working hard to secure the immediate and unconditional release of our detained staff through all available channels,” Mr Grundberg told UN News, as he called for the release of all arrested NGO workers.

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

Impact of the humanitarian crisis

The development has heightened concerns about the humanitarian emergency in Yemen, where needs remain enormous.

After nearly a decade of conflict between the internationally recognized government, even as a ceasefire largely held, aid teams have repeatedly warned that 17.6 million people – half of Yemen’s population – face food insecurity and nearly half of all children under five suffer from moderate to severe growth retardation.

According to the UN Aid Coordination Office, OCHAIn the Arabian Peninsula, 4.5 million people remain displaced, many of whom have experienced multiple displacements in recent years as a result of more than nine years of conflict between Yemen’s government and the de facto Houthi authority in control of the capital . Sana’a and other parts of the country.

Plea by the highest relief official

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

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

Peace moves

In his briefing to the Security Council Last month, UN Special Envoy Grundberg noted that the warring sides had agreed to a number of commitments in December, including a nationwide ceasefire and an inclusive political process under the auspices of the UN.

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

On Tuesday, Mr Grundberg told UN News that the recent arrests are hampering his efforts and undermining confidence. He noted, however, that his efforts to convene the parties to discuss key issues related to the economy, a nationwide ceasefire and the launch of talks to reach a lasting political settlement will continue in the benefit of the Yemeni people.

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