Sana’a, 15 April 2023 (TDI): In a major breakthrough, almost 900 conflict-related detainees, who were held for the period of eight years of fighting between the Houthi rebels and Yemen’s Government are to be released by parties over three days. The mass release started yesterday.
The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Yemen Hans Grundberg has urged both sides in the war to continue finding ways to resolve the conflict peacefully.
He further added that the release operation is a reminder that constructive dialogue and mutual compromises between warring sides can lead to impactful outcomes.
In March, the Supervisory Committee announced the initiative at UN Geneva in March after the conclusion of the Seventh Meeting by the Supervisory Committee on the implementation of the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement for Yemen.
During the announcement, he highlighted the fact that thousands of families are still anxiously waiting for their loved ones and urged all parties involved to build on the success of this release operation and fulfill the promise they made to the Yemeni people in Sweden in 2018.
At the talks in Sweden in 2018 both warring sides agreed to release all conflict-related detainees and bring this suffering to an end.
ROLE OF THE RED CROSS
The agreement was facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
According to the office of the Special Envoy, more releases would take place after the warring side would meet in May. To facilitate the process, the Reb Cross is managing the release operation which includes flights between Saudi Arabia and Yemen to repatriate all detainees.
The Red Cross is facilitating the release operation from Mokha and Abha to Sana’a. 357 detainees were transferred today and 318 detainees were transferred on Friday.
The conflict in Yemen is raging since 2014 between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. The Houthis seized the capital Sana’a subsequently. The conflict escalated when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened militarily in the conflict in support of President Mansur Al Hadi, while on the other hand, the Houthi rebels were allegedly supported by Iran.
The conflict has created a “humanitarian crisis” in the country leaving hundreds of thousands of people in Yemen without food and water and electricity and has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands as well.
The prisoner swap is taking place against the backdrop of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran and peace talks between Saudi Arabia and Houthis are gaining pace.
Both Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed on a ceasefire in Yemen at a meeting hosted by Iraq in 2022.
The mass release is a confidence measure intended to push a comprehensive political dialogue for the resolution of the conflict.
The number of prisoners on both sides is 15000. In October 2020 the Houthi rebels released 1000 detainees.