NEARLY 900 conflict-related detainees are being released in Yemen over the course of three days, which started on Friday 14 April.

The release operation is the result of talks concluded on 20 March in Switzerland, where the parties to the conflict finalised the plan for the release.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) co-chaired these meetings with the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY).

The Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, welcomed the start of the release operation and thanked the parties for their collaboration with his Office and ICRC to implement the plan agreed in March.

“This release operation comes at a time of hope for Yemen as a reminder that constructive dialogue and mutual compromises are powerful tools capable of achieving great outcomes. Today, hundreds of Yemeni families get to celebrate Eid with their loved ones because the parties negotiated and reached an agreement. I hope this spirit is reflected in ongoing efforts to advance a comprehensive political solution”, Special Envoy Grundberg said.

“Thousands more families are still waiting to be reunited with their loved ones. I hope the parties build on the success of this operation to fulfill the commitment they made to the Yemeni people in the Stockholm Agreement to release all conflict-related detainees and bring this suffering to an end.”

Special Envoy Grundberg also urged the parties to immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained individuals and to adhere to international legal standards in regards to detention and fair trials.

The ICRC’s role is to ensure that humanitarian principles are respected and that detainees are treated with humanity throughout the release and transfer process. ICRC teams have assessed the health of the detainees and confirmed that they are fit to travel. They will also accompany them during their journey and tend to any medical needs along the way. The ICRC will use its planes to fly the detainees into and out of multiple cities in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The Yemen Red Crescent Society and the Saudi Red Crescent Authority will also play vital roles in assisting the detainees. Their medical staff and volunteers will help detainees with disabilities on and off the planes and provide first aid and ambulance services where needed.

“With this act of goodwill, hundreds of families torn apart by conflict are being reunited during the holy month of Ramadan, providing a glimmer of hope amidst great suffering. Our deep desire is that these releases provide momentum for a broader political solution, leading to even more detainees returning to their loved ones”, said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.

* Sources: International Committee of the Red Cross and Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen