By Asma al-Mohattwari
Although the Government of Yemen has signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment of children by the Yemeni Armed Forces, Yemen is still one of the biggest countries in the world in recruitment of children by various armed groups. Children have been used as fuel for armed conflicts in the country.
On the International Day Against Child Recruitment, Yemeni children are still suffering from different violations. According to a recent sociological study, there are child soldiers in five provinces in armed groups and the Yemeni army. In Sana’a, 89.2% of recruited children join armed groups, while 10.8% of them join the Yemeni army. In Aden, 51.8% of children join the army while 44.7% join armed groups. In Taiz, 67.6% of them join the armed forces and 29.2% join armed groups.
Mohammed al-Orafei, Director of the Moral Guidance House (MGH), said that terrorist armed groups attract juveniles as soon as they came out of the MGH to be used in their criminal businesses.
“Juveniles must have rehabilitation programs to care for their behavior because they are the makers and builders of the future, otherwise they are going to turn into gang leaders, looters, and bandits,” said al-Orafei.
Children are also suffering from another issue, the sentence to death. The Yemeni justice system is failing to provide fair trials. In many cases, defendants may be sentenced to death after confessions under coercion or based on testimonies they gave without legal advice. Delinquent children are exposed to the most serious human rights violations, such as sentences implemented in unsafe places and environments.
Salah Al-Harazi, the General Coordinator for the Yemeni Coalition for the Rights of the Child, said that there is a lack of community awareness and a lack of supporting documents for children.
“There must be legitimate specialists and doctors to examine and determine the age of the children and provide the court with accurate reports to avoid falling into medical irregularities leading to their execution,” Al-Harazi added.
Statistics show that Yemen has one of the lowest birth registration rates in the world. In the period from 2000 to 2010, only 22% of births were registered. There are 655 children, male and female, in prison and 301 of them are sentenced to death.
Al-Harazi added that 24 children had completed their sentences but were still in prison until they pay money, which totals $140 million.
Arbena Kuriu, Human Rights Officer and Deputy Head of OIC, said that the prohibition of executions for crimes committed by persons under the age of 18 is provided in several international and regional human rights treaties, in particular in Article 6 of the ICCPR and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Kuriu added that despite global progress, the legislations of 14 states allow the application of the death penalty to children. At least 4 of the 14 states continue to execute children under 18 at the time of the crime. Unfortunately, Yemen is on the list of those remaining countries.
Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood Lamia al-Iryani pointed to the importance of the existence of legislation and laws regarding child protection, as well as a review of special Yemeni legislation.
Judge Amin Sultan went further, arguing that the most prominent problems that Yemen faces with children are the lack of social specialists, care homes, and specialized courts that can even determine a child’s age.
“The difficulty of determining the minor’s age is because of different reasons, not only the absence of birth certificates. There are also inaccuracies during the registration of birth certificates, where some parents register their children years after their birth.”
“We hope that there will be a push to activate existing laws, in addition to working on providing a good environment to accommodate them. This would provide appropriate services to them as minors in order to ensure their protection, and to protect them from all forms of exploitation and violence.”