Yemen’s Houthis free more than 100 detainees

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen’s Houthi group freed more than 100 detainees in Sanaa on Sunday, describing the move as a “unilateral humanitarian initiative” to pardon prisoners and return them to their families.

“Most of them are in humanitarian cases, including the sick, the wounded, and the elderly,” said Abdul Qader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthi-run prisoner affairs committee, who announced the release. He stated that the detainees had been government soldiers captured at the battlefront.

However, Yemen’s internationally recognized government disputed this claim, stating that the detainees were civilians kidnapped from their homes and workplaces by the Houthis.

“Releasing these victims under any name does not nullify this crime,” Majed Fadail, deputy minister for human rights in Yemen’s internationally recognized government, wrote in a post on social media platform X.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the unilateral release of 113 “conflict-related” detainees on Sunday. The ICRC said in a statement that it assisted the detainees to ensure their release was humane and dignified.

“I feel completely at ease, as if I was born again today. Because we were desperate and thought we would never get out,” said Murshed Al Jamaai, a former government soldier released on Sunday.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in late 2014. A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in 2015, aiming to restore the government.

Although a proposed U.N. roadmap for peace in Yemen was agreed upon last December, progress towards peace has stalled. The Houthis have increased attacks on ships in and around the Red Sea, claiming to act in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza conflict.

These attacks have disrupted global commerce, stoked fears of inflation, and heightened concerns that the fallout from the Israel-Hamas war could destabilize the Middle East.