Prisoner swap in Yemen is hanging by a thread, says Red Cross


The exchange of prisoners agreed by the parties to the war in Yemen “hangs by a thread” because of difficulties in reaching an agreement on the lists of people to be released, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is facilitating the process, said Monday.

Representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels will meet again in Amman on Tuesday to try to unblock the situation and bring forward the prisoner swap agreed at last December’s talks in Sweden.

“We will know better by the end of this week whether or not we will see this agreement implemented,” said Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC’s director of operations, at a meeting with journalists in New York on Monday.

According to Stillhart, the process is “hanging by a thread” right now, with a significant lack of trust between the parties and great difficulty in agreeing on the lists of prisoners in question.

Each side has transmitted a list of some 8,000 people who they want to be released, an “unusually large” number in this type of exchange, which the ICRC believes will be impossible to fulfil.

According to Stillhart, the initial lists handed out by each side showed names of numerous people who the other party does not have in their possession and who probably died during the conflict.

“There is a lot of disappointment on both sides,” the Red Cross official explained, adding that his delegation has been receiving calls every day from relatives asking if their loved ones are on the lists.

According to Stillhart, the ICRC is ready to carry out the logistical part of the exchange, but the tricky part is going to be getting the government and the rebels to reach an agreement on the lists.

Last week, the Houthis and the Saudi Arabian-led coalition intervening in the war in support of the government, carried out a first exchange, in which Riyadh released seven rebel prisoners in exchange for a sick Saudi Arabian.

The armed conflict in Yemen erupted in 2014, when Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, occupied the capital Sana’a and other provinces of the country.

The conflict intensified in 2015 with the intervention of the military coalition made up of Sunni countries in favor of forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.