Communication on Child recruitment
  • 07/05/2023
    SAM |

    SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties and the Arab Council submitted a communique to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the policy of the parties to the conflict in recruiting children in Yemen, especially the Houthi group, which involves serious violations of international human rights standards.

    The communique was prepared by a group of lawyers and human rights defenders who work for SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties in cooperation with the Arab Council. The report is based on information and testimonies of victims and eyewitnesses documented by SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties and includes dozens of testimonies taken from children of victims of recruitment in Yemen.

    This communique is based on information documented by SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties and contains examples collected by researchers and field monitors that take into account the standards of transparency, impartiality, integrity and objectivity. The team of SAM was keen to reach the victims and obtain information from them through the field activity of the working group inside Yemen, which was able to document the incidents by interviewing eyewitnesses and documenting their statements.

    The organization also used the available means of communication, received many reports, obtained many televised videos of the victims' accounts, and quoted some of what was broadcast by the media of the parties to the conflict. The organization team also used reliable open sources, such as reports issued by international organizations and credible human rights reports.

    The communique shed light on the policy of the parties to the conflict in recruiting children in Yemen, in particular the Houthis, taking advantage of the deterioration of the Yemeni economy, extreme poverty, the deterioration of the level of services and tribal fanaticism. This led to thousands of students dropping out their schools, while thousands of them were pushed to the front lines cumulatively which will affect the recovery of Yemeni society.

    The communique pointed out that the policy of child recruitment pursued by the parties to the conflict in Yemen, in particular the Houthis, involved serious violations of international human rights standards. These parties exploit the deteriorating economy, the extreme poverty and the lack of development to continue recruiting children, which leads to the violation of their right to education and to enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health. Child recruitment also results in the enforced disappearance of many recruited children, which requires intervention to promote truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

    The communique noted that the recruitment of children in Yemen was not limited to the Houthi militia only. Several local and international reports indicated the involvement of the Yemeni government and the Arab coalition forces in recruiting children, taking advantage of their families' urgent need for money although the Yemeni government signed an agreement with the United Nations in 2018. This agreement includes a roadmap to stop the recruitment and use of children in the ongoing armed conflict in the country.

    The report quoted the report of the Group of Experts for the year 2020 that forces loyal to the Yemeni government, the Arab coalition, or brokers carried out large-scale recruitment operations for children in the governorates of Taiz, Lahj, and Abyan. Then these forces transported them to train in Saudi camps in order to defend the kingdom's borders from Houthi ground attacks.

    The communique indicated that the recruitment of children had increased significantly since the coup of the Houthi militia against the legitimate government, which led to the absence of many students from schools and displacement or emigration outside the country. Furthermore, the Houthis established camps to recruit children, which were documented by the media and reports submitted by Security Council envoys. Children are used by the Houthi militia and are forced to participate in hostilities, as they were trained to fight or transport weapons and war equipment. Sometimes they are used to collect information about opponents in exchange for their basic needs such as clothing, shelter and food.

    The communique pointed out that there was no accurate statistics on the number of children recruited in the Yemeni war. These numbers vary according to the estimates of the United Nations, which estimated in its report for the year 2017 that the number of children recruited by the Houthi group reached 1,500 children. A report by the Associated Press also revealed that the Houthi group recruited about 18,000 children by the end of 2018. On the other hand, the statistics reported by the Yemeni government's Ministry of Human Rights bulletin indicated that the Houthi group recruited about 30,000 children since 2014.

    The communique stated that the SAM field team monitored the recruitment of 11,310 children in 19 governorates since 2014, including 6,269 children aged between (8-11) years, 580 children aged between (12-14) years, and 4461 children aged between (15-17) years. It added that, according to the order of the governorates, Hajjah governorate was ranked first with (1875), followed by Sana’a governorate with (1734), then Dhamar governorate (1585), while Taiz governorate, which is divided between the parties to the conflict, ranked fourth with (1124), and then Amanat Al-Asimah with (1097).

    SAM and the Arab Council quoted the report of the group of eminent experts that between June 2015 to February 2020 in all governorates under their control, the Houthis recruited boys as young as 7 years old. They were recruited from schools, poor urban areas and detention centres through indoctrination, financial incentives, abduction and/or peer recruitment, with very high rates of boys being used in combat resulting in their death or injury. This recruitment also included females as the Houthis recruited 34 girls [ages 13-17] between June 2015 and June 2020 for use as spies, recruiters of other children, guards, medics, and members of the Zainabiyat, who are entrusted with the tasks of searching women and homes and indoctrinating women with the ideas of the Houthi group, as well as maintaining order inside women's prisons.

    The authors of the communique also documented 17 camps belonging to the Houthi group dedicated to training children to be recruited, 4 of which are in Al-Hodeidah Governorate, and the others are distributed in other governorates such as Sana’a, Ibb, Dhamar, Saada and Amran. Children in these camps are trained in the fields of physical fitness, the use of light and medium weapons, planting mines, and throwing bombs and mortar shells. These camps are under the supervision of the Houthi-affiliated Ministry of Defense

    The analysis conducted by SAM indicated that the economic factor plays a pivotal role in the involvement of children in hostilities as 6126 children who were recruited were from destitute families, while 3194 children were from low-income families, and 1990 children were from middle-income families. According to SAM’s data, the Houthi group topped the list of parties that recruit children with 10,649 children. The legitimate government and its allies recruited 507 children, while 54 children were recruited by extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda.

    There are many other reasons for the growing phenomenon of child recruitment in Yemen during the war that prompted the parties to the conflict, on the top of which is the Houthi group, to exploit children and turn them into fuel for this war. These reasons include ideological, sectarian, cultural, social, tribal, financial, educational and political factors.

    The communique referred to what was mentioned by the Group of Experts on Yemen, who emphasized that the Houthis continued to indoctrinate, recruit, and in some cases militarily train children in summer camps and use them as fighters, especially in the governorates of Sana'a and Al Hudaydah. Additionally, Houthi supervisors at the community level recruit children mostly aged between 13-17 through coercion and threatening parents and teachers, as well as offering material inducements and promises of martyrdom for children. Then they enroll them in sectarian cultural and religious courses based on Houthi ideology.

    The communique issued by SAM and the Arab Council included a number of recommendations:

    • Demanding the Houthi group to disclose the numbers of child recruits
    • Demobilize all child soldiers immediately
    • Shutting down all camps and centers used to mobilize children to fight
    • Reining in inflammatory media discourse that incites hatred and violence
    • Ensuring that educational institutions and school curricula will not be misused
    • Stopping the activities which glorify fighting

    The recommendations also included calling on the legitimate government to issue legislation that prescribe harsher punishment for those involved in recruiting children and using them in hostilities, in addition to opening rehabilitation centers for the recruited children before returning them to their families and reintegrating them into society. The legitimate government must also ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to hold accountable those involved in child recruitment crimes.

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