Diplomacy

Yemen government stresses full implementation of prisoner swap deal

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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Members of the Yemeni pro-government forces who were reportedly imprisoned by the Houthis gesture during a prisoners swap in Yemen's third city of Taez on December 19th, 2019. [Ahmad al-Basha/AFP]

The Yemeni government affirmed Wednesday (August 5th) its commitment to the full implementation of the Amman agreement regarding the exchange of prisoners and detainees with the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).

This comes amid Houthi attempts to implement the agreement in stages rather than commit to the release of the full number of prisoners included in the first stage.

The Amman agreement stipulates the release of 1,420 people in its first phase.

But now the Houthis are seeking to split the first phase into two, with the initial release of 700 prisoners by both sides, Houthi Prisoners Affairs Committee official Ahmed Abu Hamra said Thursday.

On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the Yemeni government and Houthis were holding talks on a "quite considerable" prisoner exchange deal, AFP reported.

"Today, the parties are talking about a prisoner release that is quite considerable, but there is still a bit of agreement that has to be made on lists" and implementation, said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

He said the agency was working very closely with the two parties to strike a deal.

"We are very hopeful it might take place in a few days or weeks from now, and the ICRC would be ready of course to implement that logistically," Rauchenstein said in an interview at the weekend.

"But there are still a few agreements to finalise," he added.

Both sides had released hundreds of detainees late last year and the beginning of 2020 as part of sporadic swaps.

This came after the government and the Houthis agreed to exchange some 15,000 detainees as part of the Stockholm Agreement brokered by the UN in Sweden in 2018.

Circumventing implementation

The Houthis have been evasive and dragged their feet on talks to implement the Amman agreement, Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

"This impacts the Houthis' obligations under the Stockholm Agreement, which stipulates the release of all prisoners by the two sides," he said.

The Houthis' actions also impact the Amman agreement, which calls for the initial release of 1,420 prisoners by both sides, including one of the four prisoners named in a Security Council resolution, he added.

"The Houthis, as usual, are trying to circumvent the implementation of agreements unless they are in their favour," said Abdul Hafeez.

The ICRC is trying to mediate the conflict, he said, but the government stresses the need to implement the first phase in full followed by the exchange of all prisoners.

This Houthis are acting under the orders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), he said, "and this will not lead to real peace".

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed said the Houthis are attempting to split the first phase of the prisoner exchange deal in order to avoid the release of one of the four prisoners named in the Security Council resolution.

He identified the prisoner as Brig. Nasser Mansour, President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi's brother.

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