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Child soldiers used in Yemen civil war, report says

July 16, 2019

All sides of the conflict are responsible for using children in battle, a new report says. Since 2012, when the civil war in Yemen begun, at least 70,000 people have been killed.

Houthi rebels with guns in Yemen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Al-Ansi

More than 1,000 Yemeni children have been forced to fight in the civil war, the Yemen based NGO "Mwatana for Human Rights" has said.

The organization's annual report, which they presented on Tuesday in Paris, detailed how 1,117 children as young as 17 had been recruited by military groups in 2018.

The Ansar Allah — the official name of the Houthi rebels — the group said, were responsible for the majority of the use of children in the battlefield.

The children are used "by every group in the conflict to fight, guard checkpoints, and to provide logistical support to the military," the report said. The Houthi rebel group, which is backed by Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah, is responsible for 72% of child soldier use. But the Saudi-backed Yemeni government has also used child soldiers in 11% of cases identified in the report.

Yemen Houthi troops
Houthi rebels took over the Yemeni capital Sana'a in 2015Image: Reuters/A. Zeyad

'Drowning in agony'

"The warring parties are undermining Yemeni civilian and civic life every day this war continues," Radhya Al Mutawakel, chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, said. "Civilians are drowning in agony while states hesitate to take urgently needed action, like ending military support to warring parties and supporting accountability."

The report, titled "Withering Life: The Human Rights Situation in Yemen 2018," was based on over 2,000 interviews with Yemenis carried out in 2018 and 2019.

Mwatana also documented high use of mines by the Houthis in particular. They highlighted 52 landmine explosions in 2018, which killed at least 60 civilians across the country.

Children sit in a makeshift room
Many Yemeni kids have school lessons in makeshift classroomsImage: Getty Images/AFP/E. Ahmed

Coalition strikes

The coalition of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which the organization Human Rights Watch has accused of war crimes, carried out at least 150 airstrikes across Yemen, the report said. At least 375 Yemenis, among them 165 children, have been killed in the strikes.

Read more: Opinion: Suffering in Yemen is on Saudi leaders' hands

European states such as the UK, France and Germany have been under increasing pressure to stop approving defense exports to Saudi Arabia, the senior coalition partner. Germany has approved over €1 billion of defense exports to the country this year, despite export restrictions being in place.

"The longer states wait to hold Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni war criminals — on both the Houthi and Hadi sides — accountable, the more difficult it will be to rebuild Yemen," Al Mutawakal said.

Yemen has been locked in a civil war since 2012. A coalition of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in 2015 to drive out the Houthis, who had taken the capital Sanaa. The Houthis are backed by the Iranian government and Hezbollah.

The UN has since declared it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to human rights groups, and five million children face famine.

jns/ng (AFP,AP)

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