Tag Archive for: Yemen


Human Rights Watch’s Jo Becker: The U.S. Can Do More to Keep Children Off the Battlefield

[This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post on 10/04/2012]

President Barack Obama announced on Friday that, for the second year in a row, it was withholding portions of U.S. military assistance from the Democratic Republic of Congo because of its continued use of child soldiers. The U.S. also said it wouldn’t train a Congolese light infantry battalion until Congo signed an action plan with the United Nations to end its use of child soldiers. U.S. officials have repeatedly urged the Congolese government to address the issue.

The pressure seems to be working. After seven years of foot-dragging, today Congo finally signed the U.N. plan, which will require Congo to end child recruitment, demobilize children in its forces and allow U.N. verification visits to its barracks.

For years, Congo has ranked among the worst countries for child soldiers. At the height of the conflict there, the U.N. estimated that as many as 30,000 children were participating in the war. Today, hundreds each year are still recruited in eastern Congo, by both government and rebel forces. Children who have escaped or been released often fear they will be forced into service again.

The U.S. has withheld assistance from Congo under a landmark law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which prohibits U.S. military assistance to governments using child soldiers. In contrast it has, often on national security grounds, allowed other governments using child soldiers to continue receiving such aid, without conditions. Three examples — Chad, South Sudan and Yemen — show how the U.S. has missed opportunities to protect children from military service.

In Chad, government and rebel forces recruited thousands of children in a proxy war with Sudan that ended in early 2010. With U.S. pressure, the Chadian government signed a U.N. action plan in June 2011 to end child recruitment and demobilize all children from its forces. Child recruitment significantly dropped, with no new cases recorded in 2011. In June, the U.S. took Chad off its list of countries subject to possible sanctions under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, despite reports that children remained in Chad’s forces.

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President Issues Child Soldier Waivers

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
September 28, 2012

Presidential Memorandum — Presidential Determination with respect to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008


SUBJECT: Determination with Respect to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008

Pursuant to section 404 of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) (title IV, Public Law 110-457), I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defense Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of U.S. origin defense articles; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.

You are authorized and directed to submit this determination to the Congress, along with the accompanying Memorandum of Justification, and to publish the determination in the Federal Register.



The US Blinks, and Children Will Suffer

[Blog, originally from the Huffington Post]

Jo Becker
Children’s Rights Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
Posted: November 9, 2010 10:07 AM

Until recently, the United States might have been considered a world leader in combating the use of child soldiers. But after events last month, children victimized in war may need to look elsewhere for help.
The United States has spent millions of dollars supporting the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in countries like Afghanistan, Colombia, and Sierra Leone. It enacted groundbreaking legislation enabling the United States to prosecute child soldier recruiters entering the United States, and to withhold US military assistance from governments that use child soldiers. In 2002, it joined an important international treaty that prohibits the use of children under 18 as combatants. It even changed its military deployment practices to set a good example. These actions put it on the forefront of international efforts to end one of the most heinous aspects of modern warfare.
But last month President Obama issued an order allowing US military assistance to governments that use child soldiers, undermining a law he voted for as a Senator just two years ago. Also last month, the US became the first Western nation since World War II to convict a former child soldier of war crimes.

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Harvard Crimson Editorial Board: Reject Those Who Exploit Children (op-ed)

[A recent editorial regarding the Obama Administration’s military aid policies]
Reject those who exploit children
By: Harvard Editorial Board
Posted: 11/11/10
Despite its early remonstrance of perceived human-rights violations such as Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration took a step backward last week by issuing a waiver that will allow the continuation of military aid to four countries that openly employ child soldiers.

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The US Blinks, and Children Will Suffer (Blog by Jo Becker from Human Rights Watch)

Check out this blog from Jo Becker, the Children’s Rights Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, on U.S. policy regarding child soldiers, here in The Huffington Post. Human Rights Watch is a member of the Child Labor Coalition.


US Waives Child Soldier Penalties in 4 Nations

By AP / Kristen Gelineau

(WASHINGTON) — In a move criticized by human rights organizations, the Obama administration has decided to exempt Yemen and three other countries that use child soldiers from U.S. penalties under the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama said he had determined that “it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the law to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. He instructed Clinton to submit the decision to the Congress with a written justification for the move.(See pictures of child soldiers around the world.)

Obama’s memo, released by the White House on Monday, did not include the justification. Administration officials have said, however, that cutting off military aid to those four countries as required by the law would do more harm than good. And they have said that continuing close cooperation with them can be a more effective way of changing their practices.

Jo Becker, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said Obama had supported the legislation when he was in the Senate.

“This is a ground breaking law,” she said. “This is the first year it has taken effect and he’s undercutting it.”

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Poverty robs Yemeni children of their young years

[Note: Blindness is listed as one the consequences of Yemeni children working with pesticides in agriculture!]

JAMAL AL-JABERI | SANA’A, YEMEN – Aug 11 2010 13:02

After their father died two years ago, Raseel and Anwar left their family to work in a car garage, joining the millions of Yemeni children forced into the impoverished country’s labour market.

Eleven-year-old Raseel al-Khameri and his eight-year-old mute brother, Anwar, spend their days working in the garage in Sana’a in an attempt to sustain a needy family in the village of al-Akhmoor, 300km south of the capital.

“I work day and night. You’ll find me here [in the workshop] anytime from 9am until 4am,” Raseel says shyly, as his small hands skilfully work with various car parts.

With an innocent smile never leaving his face, little Anwar closely follows his older brother’s moves as he also tries to master the job.

A study carried out in 2010 by the United States-based aid group CHF International revealed that out of Yemen’s 11-million children, five million are currently employed.

Three-fifths of those do not receive an education while the remaining two million both study and work at the same time.

CHF said that 40% of Yemeni children are drawn into the labour market between the ages of seven and 13.

CHF said that 80% of those children are involved in hazardous and arduous jobs, while more than 60% use dangerous tools and over 30% said that they were injured or have fallen ill due to their jobs.

Twenty percent of Yemen’s working children were physically and emotionally abused, while 10% were sexually abused, the study found.


And some parents try to have their children smuggled into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, where they can earn 1 500 Saudi Riyals (about $400) a month — a large amount compared to salaries in Yemen, according to the study.

Yemeni rights group SEYAJ says hundreds of children in the provinces of Hajja and Al-Hudaydah, in north-west Yemen, were involved in drug-trafficking into neighbouring countries.

“There are more than 200 children used in drug-trafficking into Saudi Arabia … in return for small amounts of money given to those children,” Ahmed al-Qurashi, head of SEYAJ, told Agence France-Presse.

The Sana’a government is aware of the problem of child labour.

Adel al-Sharaabi, director of social defence at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, said “the reason behind child labour is the increase in poverty in the country”.

“The only solution to this problem is to improve Yemen’s economy,” he added.

But with the impoverished country facing a range of severe economic challenges, and struggling to maintain security and political stability as it cracks down on extremist networks, the plight of Yemen’s children does not appear to be a high government priority.

A study carried out by the Social Affairs Ministry’s child labour unit in June said that “192, 000 children are currently working in the farming sector”, and that due to the continuous use of pesticides, these children are prone to developing skin rashes, blindness, asthma and bronchitis.

Nearly half of the children working in agriculture suffer from skin infections, while 30% complain of mild purulent inflammations and 20% face intestinal infections, the government study said.

“Agriculture, which was once considered one of the safest jobs, has now become one of the most dangerous due to the poisonous and cancerous pesticides used,” Qurashi said.

After farming, auto repair shops employ the largest number of child labourers, according to the government study.

“There is a significant rise in child labour” due to the rise in rates of poverty and unemployment, Qurashi said. In such circumstances, “more children will do any job regardless of how dangerous it is”.

Children are also paid to work as “hired fighters” in Yemen’s tense north, either to fight with government-backed tribes against Zaidi Shi’ite rebels or vice-versa, in the rebels’ Saada stronghold, Qurashi said.

“The government knows this,” he added.

In addition to working from a young age, Yemen’s children face dangers from hunger.

“Half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished and one out of 10 does not live to reach the age of five,” according to the World Food Programme.

“Such emergency levels of chronic malnutrition — or stunting — are second globally only to Afghanistan; the proportion of underweight children is the third highest in the world after India and Bangladesh,” it says. — AFP



Child labor in Yemen…outlaw phenomenon

Yemen Observer: https://www.yobserver.com

Posted in: Reports
Written By: Fatima al-Aghbari
Article Date: Aug 26, 2010 – 4:54:28 AM


The child labor phenomenon in Yemen has worsened since the 1960s because of the economic deterioration and high rates of poverty, as field studies have shown.

(Saba)- The socialists see that the aggravation of this phenomenon is also linked to the early marriage problem.

Deteriorating economic situations in Yemen, especially in light of the global economic crisis and the accompanying high prices and the individuals› low income, plays a significant role in the growth the of child labor phenomenon.

In recent years, the phenomenon has significantly exacerbated as many children started flocking to the labor market to work in different areas such as restaurants, auto repair shops, construction sites and selling items in streets amongst other work.

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