AL-MUKALLA: Yemen and the Houthi militia held a new round of prisoner swap talks on Sunday, the UN and Yemeni officials said.
The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said that the Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the Prisoners and Detainees Exchange Agreement, which includes the warring parties in Yemen, held its fifth meeting in Amman.
Griffiths called on them to focus on securing the release of vulnerable people and sick and elderly detainees.
“I urge the parties to prioritize in their discussions the immediate and unconditional release of all sick, wounded, elderly and children detainees as well as all arbitrarily detained civilians, including women,” he said. “I also urge the parties to discuss and agree on names beyond the Amman meeting lists to fulfill their Stockholm commitment of releasing all conflict-related detainees as soon as possible.”
Previous talks led to the release of 1,065 inmates in October and rekindled hopes of striking a deal to end the war.
Griffiths, buoyed by that success, has pushed Yemeni parties into accepting his peace ideas, known as the Joint Declaration. This suggests putting into place a nationwide truce followed by economic measures to alleviate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A Yemeni government official with knowledge of the talks, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Arab News that the talks would be based on previous ones in Amman and might lead to the release of 301 detainees on both sides.
The government aims to secure the release of prominent military and political detainees who were mentioned in UN Security Council Resolution 2216, such as former Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi and the Yemen president’s brother Nasser Mansour Hadi.
Abdul Kader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthi prisoner affairs committee, was in Amman on Saturday to take part in the meeting.
The Houthi visit to Amman is the first since the US designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
Yemenis on Sunday launched a social media campaign to highlight Houthi crimes and to convince countries to follow the US.
The people behind the campaign said they wanted to “inform the world about the terrorism acts by the Houthi militia against Yemenis and to call all free countries to designate them as a FTO.”
Dozens of Yemeni journalists, human right activists, intellectuals and officials have condemned the group’s human right abuses, using the hashtag #HouthiTerrorismInYemen, and shared images and videos that show Houthis blowing up the houses of their opponents.
“The Houthis waged numerous wars against civilians,” activist Mohammed Abdullah Qassem tweeted. “Until today, they are still attacking Taiz, Mareb, Al-Bayda, etc. They insist on ruling Yemenis by force, based on the theory of the divine right to rule, the ideology that the West overthrew before centuries.”
Zayed Al-Jaberi, a human rights advocate, was angry about media reports saying the US might reverse its terrorist designation decision. He added that Yemenis, who had borne the brunt of the group’s crimes, had treated them as terrorists for years.
“Apart from the designation of the US State Department, we as Yemenis, totally know that the Houthi militia is the worst terrorist group throughout history,” he tweeted.