Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels yesterday exchanged lists of prisoners they want released in a confidence-building measure aimed at advancing peace talks
The two delegations, which are currently engaged in United Nations brokered negotiations in Rimbo, Sweden, presented more than 15,000 names to the UN’s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths.
“We presented a list of 8,576 names of workers, political activists, youth, teachers, students, children, tribal figures, businessmen, women and doctors that have been forcibly detained and hidden in Houthi prisons,” a government official told The National.
Among the Yemenis believed to be detained in Houthi prisons, the official said there were 1700 minors and 90 women. The government’s list also includes members of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family and Bahai groups.
The government claims that 1200 of the prisoners held by the Houthis have been tortured, and that 132 have died in captivity.
“The delegation has asked for guarantees that the militias will end their brutal operations of abducting people from their homes and restricting the freedom of Yemenis,” the official said.
Hadi Haig, who heads the government’s prisoner swap committee, told The National on Monday that the deal would be carried out in stages, adding that it could take up to 48 days before all prisoners were exchanged.
In the coming weeks, the government and rebels are expected to exchange information concerning the fate of the detained, before agreeing to a final list of prisoners to be released.
The government is hoping rebels will demonstrate goodwill by releasing some high-profile prisoners before talks end on Friday. Former minister of defence Gen Mahmood Al Soubaihi, Maj Gen Naser Mansour Hadi, who is the brother of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, and the leader of Yemen’s Islamist Al Islah party, Mohammed Qahtan are among those held in Houthi prisons. They have been detained since 2015.
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