GENEVA - Complex preparations are under way for a mass prisoner exchange between the Saudi-backed government in Yemen and Houthi rebels toward the end of next month, the International Committee of the Red Cross reports.
Yemen's warring parties exchanged lists of prisoners during the peace talks last week in Sweden, with each list containing the names of 8,000 detainees they are willing to release.
The ICRC says the parties have 40 days from Dec. 11, when the agreement was signed, to check the accuracy of the names of prisoners on the lists. It notes some of the people named might already have been released or are missing.
After that process is completed, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East, Fabrizio Carboni, says the Red Cross will have 10 days before the release takes place. During that time, Red Cross delegates will interview the detainees to make sure they want to go back to their places of origin.
"And after there is the logistic of taking people from one place to another," Carboni said. "We will have a plane. We need to secure the place where the plane will land. We need to make sure that all the parties involved in the conflict guarantee the security of the operation. It is going to be a long one, an intense one. No doubt there will be hiccups."
Carboni says unpredictable situations always arise, but the Red Cross will be ready to deal with unforeseen events.
The prisoner exchange will occur simultaneously, he told VOA, adding that the ICRC is solely in charge of the operation, including the covering of all costs.
"Here we are playing what we call the neutral intermediary role of the ICRC," Carboni said. "Our experience is the best way to make things happen is that you take responsibility for everything and you ask for money to nobody."
Carboni says many people have gone missing in the war, and their families will be hoping to see the names of their loved ones among the list of detainees. The most difficult part of the operation, he says, will be seeing the pain of those whose last hope of finding their missing loved ones alive is crushed.