by Hayat Norimine, Al Bawaba
The Human Rights Watch called for an immediate stop to the use of child soldiers in Yemen’s armed groups Tuesday, as Houthi rebel group intensifies its recruitment of children to use in their fight against Yemen’s government loyalists.
The monitor said the groups’ use of child soldiers violates international law and should face prosecution. Since September 2014 the HRW said the armed militants have increasingly been using children, aged at least as young as 12, in the armed conflict. Some are used as scouts and first aid assistants, while others are trained to fight.
“All armed groups in Yemen should reject sending children to battle or using them to support fighting,” HRW special adviser Fred Abrahams said. “The cost to these young people – the trauma, the injuries, and the lost schooling – is huge, as is the cost to Yemen’s future.”
Children with the Houthis and other armed groups make up about a third of all fighters in Yemen, according to UNICEF. Armed groups have recruited at least 140 children in one month alone, from late March to April.
The HRW said there have been several reports of 14- to 16-year-old soldiers carrying rifles and handguns from all parties of the war. One witness told the organization of a 7-year-old Houthi fighter standing at a checkpoint with an assault rifle.
A Houthi recruiter told the organization the children in active combat receive military training, while others provide first aid, collect bodies, carry food and ammunition or serve as guards.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon published a list of violations against children in May that included the use of children in armed forces by armed forces in Yemen.
The Human Rights Watch interviewed several children who had been recruited by the Houthis to fight in the war and wounded, including a boy who was shot in the chest and continued to fight after recovery.