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UN agency replaces official blocked from entering Yemen

June 10, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2019, file photo, Shiite Houthi tribesmen hold their weapons as they chant slogans during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner replaced its chief in Yemen, Elobaid Ahmed Elobaid, nearly nine months after the Houthis who control northern Yemen denied him entry, documents dated Tuesday, June 9, 2020 obtained by The Associated Press show. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2019, file photo, Shiite Houthi tribesmen hold their weapons as they chant slogans during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner replaced its chief in Yemen, Elobaid Ahmed Elobaid, nearly nine months after the Houthis who control northern Yemen denied him entry, documents dated Tuesday, June 9, 2020 obtained by The Associated Press show. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations has quietly ended the assignment of its chief rights officer in Yemen after Houthi rebels blocked his entry into the country for months, according to U.N. documents.

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner replaced its chief in Yemen, Elobaid Ahmed Elobaid, nearly nine months a fter the Houthis, who control northern Yemen, denied him entry, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

A U.N. document dated Tuesday showed that OHCHR notified the Yemen mission in Geneva of the replacement of Elobaid without giving reasons.

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A Yemeni document dated Wednesday showed the Yemeni mission in Geneva notifying Yemen’s Foreign Ministry of the appointment of Elobaid’s deputy, Abeer al-Khraisha, as chief of mission.

There was no immediate comment from the U.N. on Wednesday.

Houthis occupied the capital Sanaa in 2014 and have been at war with the internationally recognized government and its backers, a Saudi-led coalition, over the past five years.

Mohammed Askar, the government’s minister for human rights, condemned the U.N.‘s move and described it as “succumbing to the militias’ blackmailing.”

He told the state-run news agency SABA on Wednesday, “such a move gives the Houthis the upper hand upon the U.N.”

Elobaid was denied entry into the country on Sept. 30 last year in the aftermath of a damning U.N. report detailing abuses by all parties in Yemen’s civil war, including sexual violence against women in Houthi-run prisons.

After landing in Sanaa, Elobaid’s plane was ordered to leave after security officers boarded the jet and withdrew his travel permit.

The Associated Press has previously reported that Houthi rebels have obstructed the work of U.N. humanitarian agencies, using visas and travel permits as bargaining chips to control U.N. operations in the country.

Earlier this month, the world body failed to obtain enough funds from international donors to support its humanitarian operation in Yemen amid the pandemic.

U.N. officials and donors have cited the Houthis’ obstruction of humanitarian work as one of the main reasons behind cuts in donations, which threatens to deprive millions of Yemenis of aid.

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