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UN pressing for release of staff detained in Yemen
Middle East World News

UN pressing for release of staff detained in Yemen

The staffers have been held incommunicado by the de facto authorities in Yemen who hold the capital and large swathes of the war-wracked country, formally known as Ansar Allah.

More commonly known as the Houthis, they have been fighting for overall control of Yemen against a coalition of pro-Government forces since 2015.

“We continue to be refused access to them”, said Mr Laurence. “We also remain particularly concerned by the situation of two other UN staff members who were already in prolonged detention, one since November 2021 and the other since August 2023,” he told reporters in Geneva.

He underscored that the UN “emphatically” rejects shocking and false allegations made publicly against the staff members being held.

The OHCHR spokesperson called on States and others which influence over the Houthis to help secure the safe and prompt release of all those detained.

Respect for human rights

“It’s crucial that the de facto authorities ensure that those detained are treated with full respect for their human rights, and that they are able to contact their families and legal representatives,” Mr. Laurence insisted, voicing concern over the conditions they face in captivity.

Any further targeting of human rights and humanitarian workers in Yemen must cease immediately, he added.

The 13 UN Staffers were detained in June. Four additional UN staff members have been detained and held incommunicado by the de facto authorities since 2021 and 2023, without access to their families or their respective organizations and agencies.

Agencies involved

As the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY)
indicated back in June, the four staff held ahead of the latest detentions worked for the UN education, scientific and cultural agency, UNESCO, and the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

The 13 UN staff detained include six who work for rights office OHCHR and one each from the Office of the Special Envoy in Yemen (OSESGY), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and two from UNESCO.