A visiting United Nations envoy today secured commitments by the authorities in Yemen to end the recruitment and use of children in the country’s armed forces.
“I am heartened by the pledge from President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and others in Government to end the recruitment and use of children by Government forces,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, who met with the President and other senior officials as well as civil society members.
“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,” Ms. Zerrougui said. “The President’s public instruction to all security forces not to recruit children under 18 is a very positive first step.”
The restructuring of the country’s security and armed forces is one of the elements of the democratic transition process underway in Yemen, following widespread protests last year that led to the resignation of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Four parties in Yemen are listed in the Secretary-General’s ‘list of shame’ for recruitment and use of children: the Yemeni armed forces; Ali Mohsen’s First Armoured Division; pro-Government tribal militia; and the Al Houthi armed group.
During her visit, which began on Monday, Ms. Zerrougui also travelled to the Sa’ada governorate, where she met with the leader of the Al Houthi armed group, Abdul Malik Badraldeen Al Houthi.
While in the capital, Sana’a, Ms. Zerrougui met with child victims of conflict who had been recruited by the First Armoured Division and the police.
“Children must go to school, not military camps. I urge the Government to act quickly with United Nations support in separating children from the security forces, and ensuring that they are reintegrated back into civilian life.”
Ms. Zerrougui also met children maimed by mines, and warned of the increase in use of explosive remnants in the country. “I am horrified by the widespread use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen, which has increased dramatically this year – by five times – and have a disproportionate impact on children,” she said.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Yemen, Ismael Ouldcheikhahmed, reiterated the UN system’s readiness to work closely with the Government and other partners to reintegrate children and facilitate their access to education and livelihoods support.
Ms. Zerrougui’s office said the Government’s commitment paves the way for the development of an action plan to address prevention, separation, and the reintegration of children, in line with Security Council resolution 1612, adopted in 2005. The resolution establishes measures to end grave violations against children through a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the use of child soldiers.