SRSG Zerrougui secures commitments from the Yemeni authorities and Al Houthi armed group to end child recruitment

Sana’a, 28 November 2012 — During a mission to Sana’a, United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, secured commitments from the Government of National Unity to end the recruitment and use of children by the Yemeni Armed Forces.

In Yemen to take stock of the situation of conflict-affected children, Ms. Zerrougui met with the President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Mohammed Saleh Basindwa, as well as the Military Affairs Committee for Security and Stability established by the GCC Initiative, Gen. Ali Mohsen, commander of the First Armoured Division, child victims, the Child Parliament and civil society members. Ms. Zerrougui also travelled to Sa’ada governorate, where she met with the leader of the Al Houthi armed group, Abdul Malik Badraldeen Al Houthi.

“I am heartened by the pledge from President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and others in Government 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 professionalise the security force,” said Ms. Zerrougui. “The President’s public instruction to all security forces not to recruit children under 18 is a very positive first step,” she added.

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.

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 (2005).

In Sa’ada today, Ms. Zerrougui also held a positive meeting with Abdul Malik Badraldeen Al Houthi, who also pledged to work towards the reintegration of children.

While in Sana’a, Ms. Zerrougui met with child victims of conflict, including Ismael and Ali (names changed), boys associated to the First Armoured Division and the police. ‘The cases of Ismael and Ali underscore the need for urgent action by the Government,’ Ms. Zerrougui stated. ‘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’.

For his part, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Ismael Ouldcheikhahmed stated the UN system’s readiness to work closely with the Government and other partners in implementing these commitments. An important component will be to reintegrate children and facilitate their access to education and livelihoods support. ‘Implementing existing national laws and providing access to basic services will be critical to ending children’s involvement in hostilities’, Mr. Geert Cappelaere, ‘Yemen’s future is in its children. Let’s invest in it together,’ he added.

Ms. Zerrougui also met children maimed by mines. ‘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’. Ms. Zerrougui met with 17 year old Mohammed (name changed), who lost his left foot and suffered injuries to his arm and stomach when he stepped on a mine while playing in the street. ‘Mohammed’s life has been changed forever. He feels stigmatized at school because of his amputation, and his health is deteriorating, she noted. ‘The use of mines, improvised explosive devices, and the presence of explosive remnants of war pose a serious threat to children’s wellbeing,’ she added.

The Security Council’s resolutions 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009) and 1998 (2011) on Children and Armed Conflict establish measures to end grave violations against children, through the creation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism, and the development of Action Plans to end violations by parties who have been listed in the Secretary-General’s report for the commission of such violations.