UN chief warns Yemen in imminent danger of famine

People queue to collect food rations at a food distribution center in Sanaa, Yemen. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 20 November 2020

UN chief warns Yemen in imminent danger of famine

  • US threatens to blacklist Houthis as part of its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran
  • UN officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that war-torn Yemen “is now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades.”
Guterres warning comes as the United States threatens to blacklist Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi militia as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. Aid workers have raised fears such a move would prevent life-saving aid reaching the country.
“I urge all those with influence to act urgently on these issues to stave off catastrophe, and I also request that everyone avoids taking any action that could make the already dire situation even worse,” Guterres said in a statement.
An Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Houthis. UN officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as the country’s suffering is also worsened by an economic and currency collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the absence of immediate action, millions of lives may be lost,” Guterres said.
The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the people in need of help.
A senior Western diplomat said a designation of the Houthis by the United States designated the Houthis “would certainly not contribute to progress on Yemen.” “It’s likely that they want to do whatever it takes to increase the pressure on Iran,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock has said the United Nations has received less than half of what it needed this year — about $1.5 billion — for its humanitarian operations in Yemen. Last year it received $3 billion.
The Human Rights Office in Sanaa said the Houthi militia committed more than 24,000 violations against children, including murder, kidnapping and recruitment, Al Arabiya reported.
“We call on the international community to protect the children of Yemen from Houthi violations,” the office said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber said that the Kingdom will resume its consular work at the embassy after a suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ambassador said in a tweet that the move was part of the Kingdom’s initiatives to support the Yemeni people in all governorates to provide them with job opportunities.
Al-Jaber also said that from mid-2018 up until the COVID-19 pandemic, the embassy issued more than 135,000 work visas, which have helped them “take care of their families in Yemen and transfer hard currency to support the Yemeni economy.”
(With Reuters)


UN, Amnesty call on Iran to halt execution 

Updated 12 min 4 sec ago

UN, Amnesty call on Iran to halt execution 

  • Djalali has been denied medical treatment despite likely suffering from leukaemia
  • The academic’s confession was extracted using torture, experts warn

LONDON: The UN and Amnesty International have called on Tehran to halt its imminent execution of Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, saying he was subjected to an unfair trial involving torture.
Djalali was sentenced to death for espionage in 2017. His sentence has been upheld despite evidence that his conviction involved forced confessions extracted using torture, including threats to execute him and his family.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention revealed in 2017 that he was arbitrarily detained and denied access to a lawyer throughout his trial.
The group called for his immediate release. During lengthy periods in solitary confinement since then, he has been denied medical treatment despite likely suffering from leukaemia.
In a letter written from Evin prison in 2017, Djalali said he was detained because he refused to use his connections in European academia to spy for Iran.
Later that year, an Iranian state-run TV channel aired his “confession” that included commentary referring to him as a foreign spy.
Djalali phoned his wife on Tuesday saying it would be his “last farewell,” sparking fears that he faces imminent execution.
He reportedly told her that he would be sent to solitary confinement in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, a notorious facility used by Tehran to execute political prisoners.
UN human rights experts said: “We are horrified by the reports that Djalali is soon to be executed by Iran. His torture, arbitrary detention, death sentence and now reported imminent execution are unconscionable acts that should be condemned by the international community in the strongest terms. We urge the Iranian authorities to take immediate action to reverse this decision before it is too late.”
They added: “The decision to execute Djalali is completely reprehensible. On several counts, this would be a clear and serious violation of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law, especially the right to life. We urge Iran to stop this execution immediately.”
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “We were horrified to learn that the authorities have instructed the office in charge of implementing sentences to transfer Ahmadreza Djalali to solitary confinement and implement his death sentence no later than a week from Nov. 24.”
She added: “It is appalling that despite repeated calls from UN human rights experts to quash his death sentence and release him, Iranian authorities have instead decided to push for this irreversible injustice. They must immediately halt any plans to execute Djalali and end their shocking assault on his right to life.
“We call on members of the international community to immediately intervene, including through their embassies in Tehran, to save Ahmadreza Djalali’s life before it is too late.”