YEMEN: Immediately and Unconditionally Release Education Expert Mujib al-Mikhlafi

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

The Houthis, the de facto governing authority in and around the Yemeni capital Sana’a, must immediately and unconditionally release Mujib al-Mikhlafi, who was arrested on 10 October 2023, said the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). Al-Mikhlafi, an education expert and trainer working at the Ministry of Education in the capital, has neither yet been formally charged nor had any access to a lawyer since his arrest last year, in clear violation of his due process rights.

“The Houthis are deliberately not changing their practices in the areas they control; they commit violations repeatedly with complete impunity and disregard to human rights and legal proceedings. We have seen this in the arbitrary detention of  Judge Qatran and now again with Al-Mikhlafi”, said Amna Guellali, Research Director at CIHRS.

Mujib Al-Mikhlafi was arrested by the Houthis on 10 October 2023 while he was on his way to Ibb governorate to hold a workshop for education staff in schools there. He was forcibly disappeared for at least 21 days until his family learnt from the reports and complaints hotline at the security and intelligence service that he was held in the Houthi detention center in Sana’a, a source close to the family told CIHRS.

On the same day Al-Mikhlafi was arrested, security forces raided his house in Sana’a and searched it for at least two hours. All documents related to Al-Mikhlafi’s job along with two old phones and two tablets used by his children were confiscated. Al-Mikhlafi has been working as an education trainer with the Ministry of Education for more than 20 years. The security forces, who were in military clothes and armed, had no search warrants and said nothing to the family except “suspecting Mujib”.

Mujib Al-Mikhalfi was held incommunicado until 15 November 2023, when he was allowed the first phone call to his family. The family first saw Al-Mikhlafi on 6 January 2024 as he appeared from behind a glass window with limited visibility;  they were only able to speak to him through a wired phone attached next to the window. The family is seriously concerned that Al-Mikhali’s health will deteriorate  in prison, as he already suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes.

On 22 January 2024, an appeal was submitted by the family to the head of the Houthis Supreme Political Council calling for Mujib Al-Mikhlafi’s release, CIHRS learnt from a source close to Al-Mikhlafi’s family. To date, the family received no response to their urgent appeal.

On his trip to Ibb, Al-Mikhalfi was joined by his work colleague Sabry Al-Hakimi, who was also arrested and held in the same detention center and conditions as Al-Mikhlafi. Yemeni human rights groups reported that Al-Hakimi died in prison on 25 March 2024. Both education experts and trainers should not have been arrested in the first place. Until Al-Mikhlafi is released, he must be protected from any ill-treatment and provided with adequate access to healthcare and immediate access to his lawyers.

The Houthis have used arbitrary detention to crack down on basic freedoms including that of expression and association and against religious communities in Yemen. CIHRS has documented several cases where arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance was used against individuals such as Judge Abdulwahab Mohammad Qatran, feminist activist Fatma Al-Arwali, and the Baha’i community in Sana’a.

This unscrutinized crackdown not only targets individuals who oppose the Houthis, it now extends beyond that, with even educators targeted. According to UNICEF, Yemenis working in the field of education have been living under acute hardship. Not only have they not received their salaries since 2016, their struggles are now compounded by the risk of arrest, a risk to which they should not be vulnerable.

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