President Hadi bans use of children in armed forces
President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi on 27 November banned the recruitment of children into any military and security forces in Yemen.
The ban was announced following a meeting with the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms.Leila Zerrougui.
Parties in Yemen have been listed in Annex II of the Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict since 2011, with the listing of Al-Houthi rebels as well as the Pro-Government Tribal Militia. In 2012, the First Armoured Division and the Yemeni Armed Forces were added to what is also called the ‘the shame list’. According to a UNICEF report presented in October this year, child recruitment cases in Yemen have increased from 22 children in 2011 to 29 in 2012. As reporting on recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups is limited, the actual numbers are expected to be higher.
"Yemeni armed groups only appeared on the list following the clashes in 2011. By strongly condemning and banning the practice, President Hadi and others now address this before it becomes a long lasting tendency and therefore also harder to reverse," Ms. Zerrougui said. As recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups is considered a crime against humanity, Ms. Zerrougui also pointed out that offenders could be held personally accountable and face charges in the International Criminal Court.
"I am heartened by the pledge from President Hadi and others to end the recruitment and use of children by Government forces. The re-structuring of the security forces envisioned during the transition period offers a unique opportunity to end grave violations against children and to professionalize the security force," said Ms. Zerrougui. The ban also applies for non-government groups. "This is a very positive first step," she added. On the same day, the Government agreed to abide by the Paris Commitments to Protect Children Unlawfully Recruited or Used by Armed Forces or Armed Groups, which provide guidelines on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children after leaving armed groups.
In addition to the reception at the Presidential Palace, Ms. Zerrougui also met with Prime Minister Mohammed Basindowa, Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, Sadeq al Ahmar, Abdul Malik al-Houthi and members of the Military Affairs, Security and Stability Committee established as part of the GCC initiative. She also met with Minister of Human Rights Ms. Hooria Mashhor and Minister of Legal Affairs Mr. Momammed Al-Mikhlafi.
In Sana’a, Ms. Zerrougui met with child victims of conflict. "Children must go to school, not military camps; I urge the Government to act quickly with the United Nations’ support in separating children from the security forces, and ensuring that they are reintegrated back into civilian life," she said.
Ms. Zerrougui noted that all parties she met admitted that cases of child recruitment and use happens in Yemen, however, they agreed that children should be sheltered from taking part in war. They expressed a commitment to end recruitment of people under 18 years old, as well as willingness to work to reintegrate affected children back into the society. "War is an affair for adults. According to our tradition and religion, there is no record of the Prophet sending children to war. When his first troops headed to Mecca he told them not to touch children and women, and even spare the trees," Ms. Zerrougi said. “Yemen is now in transition, this is an opportunity to put a system in place that prevents the door that allows recruitment of children to ever be opened again."One of the concerns repeatedly raised throughout the meetings, were the underlying causes of recruitment, notably poverty.
Ending extreme poverty, having reliable options for making a living and secure access to basic services would by far eliminate the grounds for recruitment of children into armed groups, as well as facilitate reintegration of children already affected. The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed, ensured UN system’s readiness to work closely with the Government and other partners in implementing the new ban. "The Government of Yemen and multiple other relevant parties have now expressed commitment to stop the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. This commitment comes with an appeal to the United Nations and other partners to assist in helping these children back to a meaningful life away from armed groups, as well as to support families and communities in Yemen struck by poverty and conflict. This will be essential to avoid further recruitment. The ball is now in our hands," Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmad said.
Do you want to know more about UN’s work to stop children being drawn into war?
Check out Ms. Zerrougui and her team’s webpage here.
… and here you can see what the media wrote about the visit: