Fabrizio Carboni (left), Near and Middle East regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Hans Grundberg (right), Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen, at a press conference on the Implementation of the Detainees' Exchange Agreement at the Palace of Nations, Geneva, Switzerland - 20 Mar 2023. UN Photo / Elma Okic

Yemen: The parties agree to release hundreds of conflict-related detainees

Joint statement by the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross at the conclusion of the seventh meeting of the Supervisory Committee on the implementation of the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement.
News release 20 March 2023 Yemen Switzerland

Geneva (ICRC) —The parties to the conflict in Yemen concluded a ten-day meeting in Switzerland today and finalized the implementation plan for the release of 887 conflict-related detainees from all sides.  The parties have also agreed to reconvene in May to discuss more releases and committed to undertake joint visits to each other’s detention facilities, and to enable access to all detainees during these visits.

The parties’ representatives were convened as members of the Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement - co-chaired by the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This is the seventh meeting of the Supervisory Committee which was established under the Stockholm Agreement to support the parties in meeting their commitments to release all conflict-related detainees. To this end, the parties have agreed in previous meetings of the Supervisory Committee to adopt a phased approach to fulfill their obligation to release all for all.  In October of 2020, the Supervisory Committee met and agreed to release over 1,000 detainees from both sides.

“I welcome today’s outcomes and I thank the parties for making the compromises needed to reach this conclusion. I join hundreds of Yemeni families in looking forward to the swift and smooth implementation of the releases. And I hope there will be an end soon to the suffering of all Yemenis who are still waiting to be reunited with their loved ones and who are pained by uncertainty about the fates of those dearest to them,” said the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Hans Grunberg, “The United Nations remains ready and eager to facilitate progress towards releasing all conflict-related detainees. And I encourage the parties to take initiatives to release additional detainees on a unilateral and ongoing basis.”

The Special Envoy thanked the Swiss Government for hosting the meeting and for its continued, unwavering support to the efforts of OSESGY and ICRC in relation to the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement. He also expressed his appreciation for ICRC’s important role in facilitating the release operation. 

“This is a crucial step that will end the suffering of many separated families and help build confidence between the parties that we hope will lead to further release operations,” said Daphnée Maret, ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen. “The ICRC stands ready to continue to play the role of neutral intermediary and to facilitate purely humanitarian visits in places of detention, contribute to the re-establishment of family links, and support the release, transfer and repatriation of conflict-related detainees so that thousands more can return to their families.”  


Note to editors:

The below is a statement given by Fabrizio Carboni, the regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Near and Middle East, to journalists in Geneva on the closure of the seventh Supervisory Committee of the Implementation of the Detainee Release Agreement meeting around the release of detainees. Check remarks against delivery at the press briefing on UN TV.

Nearly 900 detainees on both sides of the conflict in Yemen should soon return home to be reunited with their families. What a pleasure it is to say such words.

The progress made during these talks has the potential to be lifechanging for so many. Put simply: release operations mean that loved ones can be together again. They are a symbol of hope and humanity amid the horrors of war.

This is a huge success.

I saw firsthand the joy that these release operations bring when I accompanied over 1,050 former detainees on their return home in a simultaneous release operation in 2020. We at the International Committee of the Red Cross later brought 117 detainees home to their families in another release operation in 2022. Both times we acted as a neutral intermediary in transporting detainees to their home countries; we carried out medical check-ups to ensure they were healthy enough to travel.

The ICRC is ready to do that again. It is now up to the parties to make sure that these latest discussions translate into concrete plans and action to allow detainees to return to their loved ones.

ICRC teams will need free and unfettered access to the detainees in the coming days and weeks so we can conduct individual interviews in private. This allows us to gather their informed consent to be transferred and identify any special needs that they have.

I do, however, want to acknowledge that there are still more detainees whose names did not make it to the negotiating table who, along with their families, are still waiting for news of their release. There are also many families who do not know the fate of their loved ones, whether they are alive, dead, wounded, or detained. They too deserve answers.

I hope the positive momentum created over the last 10 days will translate without delay into more talks and negotiations to alleviate the suffering of detainees and civilians because of the conflict.


For more information, please contact:

Imene Trabelsi, ICRC Beirut: itrabelsi@icrc.org or  +961 3 13 83 53

Fatima Sator, ICRC Geneva:  fsator@icrc.org or +41 79 848 49 08

Jessica Moussan, ICRC Dubai: jmoussan@icrc.org or +971 50 425 4091