From Beirut, Vatican urges Middle East parties to accept peace plans

London: Yemeni Houthi authorities must release dozens of people arrested and forcibly disappeared since May, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

HRW says in a report that the Houthis have forcibly disappeared Yemenis in territory they control, including at least 13 UN staff, as part of a wider crackdown on civil society.

“Arbitrary arrests appear to be based on detainees’ current or past employment,” HRW added.

Beginning on May 31, Houthi forces began arresting employees of several NGOs and raiding homes and offices. According to a source, more than 60 people have been arrested by June 12.

In each case, Houthi forces “arrived unannounced at the homes of those they sought to arrest, with several armored vehicles and an average of 10 to 30 armed men,” HRW said.

“Almost all the forces wore military uniforms, head and face coverings, sometimes only their eyes were visible. In many cases, the forces arrived early in the morning when the families were still sleeping.”

No search or arrest warrants were issued in either case, and Houthi forces refused family members’ requests for relatives’ whereabouts. No inmates have been formally charged.

However, as of June 10, Houthi authorities began releasing a series of videos in which Yemeni men detained between 2021 and 2023 confessed to spying for Israel and the United States.

HRW said there was a “high risk” that the confessions were coerced, and sources told the NGO that the timing of the releases was designed to “capture” those recently detained as part of a larger “spy network”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called on the Houthis to release all UN and NGO staff.

Since the start of the raids in late May, many people have fled Yemen’s Houthi-controlled areas.

The current “brain drain” from Houthi-controlled areas will only worsen as a result of the arrest campaign, a source told HRW.

Another said: “Although I managed to escape… I couldn’t sleep… I have panic attacks every day since I fled Sana’a… I am very worried about my friends and colleagues in Sana’a who are just waiting for Houthis to be arrested. them.”

Since 2014, the Houthis have detained and forcibly disappeared hundreds of people, HRW said, warning that the militia regularly practices torture in detention centers.

The Houthis also “significantly violated women’s rights and freedoms, suppressed freedom of speech and assembly, and detained dozens of journalists, human rights defenders, academics and political opponents,” the NGO added.

HRW Yemen and Bahrain researcher Niku Jafarnia said: “The Houthis are using arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances as a political tool at a time when people in their territory lack even the most basic needs.

“The Houthis must immediately release these people, many of whom have spent their careers developing their country.

“The international community must do everything to ensure that these people are released immediately.

“Many of them have been invaluable members of civil society organizations in Yemen, as well as staff of UN agencies and international non-governmental groups.”

A Yemeni expatriate told HRW: “It’s almost like our life in Yemen is over after this. I thought about moving back and starting a family there, and now it’s clear to me that I can’t do that. We can’t live like this.”

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