UN-backed investigators have found evidence that rebels in Yemen recruited nearly three dozen teenage girls – some said to be survivors of sexual violence – as spies, medics, guards and members of an all-female force.
The findings came in the third and latest report on Wednesday by the “group of eminent experts” commissioned by the Human Rights Council to investigate alleged rights violations by all sides in the war since September 2014. The devastating conflict in the Arab world’s poorest country has spawned what the United Nations calls the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.
“The parties to the conflict continue to show no regard for international law or the lives, dignity, and rights of the people of Yemen, while third states have helped perpetuate the conflict by continuing to supply the parties with weapons,” said the report.
The United Kingdom, Canada, France, Iran, and the United States continued their support to the warring sides, the UN panel said.
“This year we added Canada because there has been an uptick in arms sales by Canada in 2019,” said panel member Ardi Imseis, adding Spain, Poland, and Italy had also sold arms.
“We therefore reiterate our call for states to stop transferring arms to the parties to the conflict.”
The report, based on more than 400 accounts and focusing mainly on a period from July 2019 to June this year, highlighted how a generation of Yemen’s children have been “immeasurably damaged through child recruitment, abuse, and deprivation of their most basic human rights, including education”.
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Overall, the group documented 259 cases of children who had been recruited and used in hostilities by several sides.
It said the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels recruited boys as young as seven years old from schools, poor urban areas, and detention centres through monetary incentives, abduction, recruitment by peers and indoctrination.
“The group also received credible reports regarding Houthi recruitment of 34 girls [ages 13-17] between June 2015 and June 2020 for use as spies, recruiters of other children, guards, medics, and members of the Zainabiyat,” the report said, referring to the female force created by the rebels – an unusual phenomenon in a conservative society such as Yemen.
“Twelve of these girls allegedly survived sexual violence and/or a forced and early marriage directly linked to their recruitment,” it said.