A major prisoner swap deal has occurred between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi armed group in Yemen, Al-Jazeera reported today.
The Saudi-led coalition released 70 Houthi prisoners in exchange for some 40 prisoners held by the Houthis. The deal insinuates that both warring parties are on negotiating terms, ideal for a United Nations backed political process.
The news comes as the Yemen National Army announced the capture of seven experts belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah in the Houthi stronghold Saada governorate, northern Yemen yesterday. Although it is the first time Lebanon’s Hezbollah has been mentioned in the Yemen civil war, Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, claims it was “not the first time” that such forces were killed in Yemen, according to Arab News. Early on in the conflict, allegations surfaced that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were training the Houthis in northern Yemen.
Last April the Houthis released some 18 Al-Qaeda members in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in a deal between the two groups. The deal was reached to assist AQAP in an uptick of fighting in Al-Baydah governorate, southern Yemen, with the Saudi-led coalition.
The Saudi-led coalition was invited by the internationally recognised Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to neutralise threats posed by the Houthis in March 2015. Today, it continues to fight for the Hudaydah port in an operation codenamed “Golden Victory”. The UN has warned that the lives of 250,000 Yemenis will be devastated as a result of the military operation to recapture control of the vital waterway.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), part of the Saudi-led coalition, denied allegations last week that it operates secret prisons across Yemen torturing its prisoners. The Associated Press revealed that UAE personnel were directly involved in sexually torturing prisoners in 18 different prisons. Metal and wooden poles were used for anal cavity checks, and rocks hung from testicles.
Human Rights Watch last year accused the UAE of running private torture chambers across Yemen, and documented 49 cases including those involving children who have been arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in Aden or Hadramaut.