Lawmakers are urging the state to secure Yemen’s release as a hostage

Leaders of parliament’s foreign affairs committee have called on the State Department to use “all available leverage” to secure the release of local staff at the closed US embassy in Yemen, which was detained earlier this month by Houthi rebels.



“The actions of the Houthis are a clear violation of international law and fundamental principles of human rights,” read the letter from committee chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and ranked member Michael McCaul (R-Texas). “We must respond robustly to these provocations to prevent such abuses in the future, whether in Yemen or elsewhere.”

In a statement on Friday, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken acknowledged that “several” Yemeni citizens and their families had been detained and beaten by Iran-backed rebels after the rebels stormed the embassy area.



“The Houthis’ unprovoked abuses against these Yemeni citizens are a gross violation of diplomatic norms,” ​​said Blinken, who did not say how many were still being held captive by the rebels or provide details about their treatment.

Yemeni walks past the closed US embassy during an anti-American protest in Sanaa, Yemen.
A Yemeni man walks past the closed US embassy during an anti-American protest in Sanaa, Yemen.
EPA / YAHYA ARHAB
to use "all available leverage" to secure the release of local staff at the US Embassy in Yemen
Ranking member Michael McCaul along with President Gregory Meeks sent a letter to the State Department using “all available leverage” to secure the release of local staff at the US Embassy in Yemen.
Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images
A Houthi fighter stands guard outside the closed US embassy during an anti-American protest.
A Houthi fighter stands guard outside the closed US embassy during a protest against the United States.
EPA / YAHYA ARHAB
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken acknowledged this "several" Yemeni citizens and their families had been imprisoned and beaten by Iran-backed rebels.
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken acknowledged that “several” Yemeni citizens and their families had been imprisoned and beaten by Iran-backed rebels.
SARAH SILBIGER / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

“The Houthis must immediately release unharmed all Yemeni employees in the United States, evacuate the embassy, ​​return seized property and cease their threats,” the secretary added.



The US Embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa has not been in operation since 2015 due to the ongoing civil war in the country in the Middle East. The detained employees worked at the facility as caretakers.

It reported Bloomberg November 9 that at least 25 Yemenis working for the US government had been detained, including employees of the embassy and the US Agency for International Development. On the same day, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the ministry was aware of and concerned about the reports and insisted that “the majority of those detained are no longer in custody.”



The House Foreign Affairs Committee's chairman Gregory Meeks said the Houthis' actions were a clear violation of international law and fundamental principles of human rights.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairman Gregory Meeks said the Houthis’ actions were a clear violation of international law and fundamental principles of human rights.
EPA / JUSTIN LANE

Tuesday’s letter from Meeks and McCaul accused Iran of enabling Houthi fighters to carry out the embassy attack and called on the State Department to work with the Pentagon and other federal agencies to “ensure that sufficient resources are devoted to disrupting this destabilizing partnership, including by intercepted weapons. smuggled by Iran to the Houthis. “

“The United States cannot tolerate a breach of our sovereign territory or attacks on LES [locally employed staff]”, Concluded Meeks and McCaul. “To succeed in our diplomatic mission around the world, LES must have confidence that they are protected from attack or retaliation. We are ready to work with you to hold the Houthis accountable for these shameful violations.”

The day before Blinken’s statement, the UN Security Council condemned the seizure of the embassy area and demanded “the immediate withdrawal of all wooden elements from the premises” and the “immediate and safe release of those still detained.”

The civil war in Yemen has been going on since 2014, when the Houthis took control of Sanaa and large parts of the northern part of the country, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee south, then to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, with the support of the United States, to try to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground battles, the war has largely escalated to a stalemate and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.

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