By | Rachel Brooks
September 23, 2020
This is the transcript of the UNHCR event translated from the original Arabic.
The delegation’s meeting with the Red Cross
Location: Headquarters of the Cross, Geneva
Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi,
Viktoria Hobinkova, assistant to the Middle East official in the Red Cross,
Hobinkova is the implied speaker throughout_
Pictured above, Sana’a, in the heart of Old City, seen Attabari Elementary School, an image created in 2007 before this area was cut off by Houthi rebellion. CC BY-SA 3.0-igo. The Red Cross official in the following transcript described to the U.N. how the Yemen Red Cross mitigates the communication between families and prisoners of war to help promote their release and their health and safety post escape from Houthi prisons, which are often in privately owned buildings. Sana’a, in particular, was discussed at the event.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Red Cross official was asked about the organization’s role in supporting prisons and detention centers in the Houthi prisons to confront the coronavirus epidemic.
Her response was that they provided sterilization tools and masks in addition to holding educational sessions to confront the epidemic and they did not have any possibility to support all prisons, but rather worked to support some of them in the Houthi-controlled areas.
Regarding the detainees and their visit, the Red Cross representative stated that she does not have the authority to visit all the detainees, but rather only some cases that are approved.
The detainees are personally interviewed and some places of detention are visited to verify the conditions of detention, and to deal with prisoners. The Red Cross conducts personal interviews with some of them.
The secret prisons of the Houthi militia and the private detentions in Sana’a were then discussed. It was made clear that the Red Cross visited some of these detention facilities in Sana’a, which were villas and private homes.
When asked about the forcibly disappeared persons, the spokesperson clarified that the Red Cross has a role in demanding their release, and in some cases the Red Cross transmits paper messages between the detainee and his family on the condition that he does not write about politics or other details. The message is then presented to the party that arrests the person and these messages are intended for him. Reassuring the people that the disappeared belonged to that that individual is still alive.
The official added that the Red Cross does not interact with these cases except when relatives of the disappeared provide them with data, and that it remains confidential and is not circulated or leaked. WhatsApp is used in such communication.
When asked about the cases of the abduction of women by the Houthi, she did not clarify any details or respond to our inquiry about the cases and the means of kidnapping and extortion practiced by the Houthi militia against the tribes that have reservations in such cases.
When asked about the role of the Red Cross in providing medical aid to hospitals to confront the coronavirus epidemic, she explained that the Red Cross provides aid to hospitals because of the coronavirus and the rest of the difficult conditions Yemen is going through.
On the issue of negotiations and the party that obstructs the launch of the exchange process to release the prisoners, it has been clarified that the Houthi are the party that obstructs the issue. Hubenkova replied that the Red Cross does not oversee and does not participate in the negotiations.
The Red Cross plays a role for the success of the exchange process between the two parties. The Red Cross interviews the detainees before their release to ensure that they are not exposed to danger in the event of their release. Additional, the Red Cross provides support in each the case of releases that are assisted,, by communicating with the ex-detainee after their release to ensure that they are not harassed.
The Red Cross official then explained that the international envoy deals with some local organizations that follow the Houthi militia, and ignores the reports of the rest of the local organizations that work on the ground. It was made clear that they are dealing with some organizations on the ground because they work directly and communicate with the authorities.