Republic of Yemen
Population: 
21.0 million (11.3 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 
66,700
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 
no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 
18
Voting Age: 
18
Optional Protocol: 
acceded 2 March 2007
Other Treaties: 
GC AP I
GC AP II
CRC
ILO 138
ILO 182

Although Yemen’s laws specified 18 as the minimum recruitment age, under-age recruitment to the armed forces reportedly remained common.

Context: 

The government faced persistent opposition from followers of Sheik Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houti, who was killed in September 2004 after months of battles with Yemeni security forces. Sheik al-Houti, one of the clerics of the Zaidi Shia community, headed an armed group, the Faithful Youth (Shabab al-Moumineen, sometimes translated as the Believing Youth). This group, which was still active, led protests at mosques against the United States (USA) and Israel, and launched attacks against government and Western targets. Al-Houti’s followers claimed that the Yemeni government had become too closely allied with the USA.1 The Yemeni Ministry of Defence published a fatwa (religious edict) in March 2007, authorizing and obligating “the use of deadly force against the Faithful Youth”.2

Al-Qaeda cells were reportedly present in Yemen. In July 2007 the organization allegedly carried out a suicide bomb attack in the eastern province of Marib, killing seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis. An al-Qaeda member who had escaped from a Yemeni prison with 23 other militants in February 2006 was killed in a shoot-out with the armed forces in January 2007.3

Inter-tribal violence, fuelled by the availability of firearms in the hands of tribesmen, resulted in a number of killings.4 The government’s ability to control these clashes remained limited. Tensions which periodically escalated into violent confrontations continued between the government and some tribes.5

Government: 

National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution made no direct reference to conscription, but stated that “[t]he law shall regulate general mobilization which shall be announced by the chairman of the Presidential Council following the approval of the House of Representatives” (Article 36). In 2001 Yemen’s National Defence Council abolished compulsory military service, relying instead on volunteers to fill posts in the military and security forces.6 Article 149 of Law No. 45 (2002) on Child Rights stated that “persons under the age of 18 cannot participate in armed conflicts or be recruited”. The law forbade all exploitation of children as child soldiers.

Although Yemen’s laws specified 18 as the minimum recruitment age, under-age recruitment to the armed forces reportedly remained common. The recruitment system was disorganized and birth registration was irregular. Joining the army was highly sought after, since other employment opportunities were extremely limited. Parents sometimes agreed to the recruitment of their children into the armed forces because of their poor economic situation.7

During fighting between the Yemeni armed forces and the Faithful Youth in January–March 2007, the Yemeni military reportedly used child soldiers. Children as young as 15 were allegedly given weapons by the armed forces and sent to the front with no training.8

Armed Groups: 

Paramilitaries

Yemen’s paramilitary force was about 70,000 strong. Approximately 50,000 constituted the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Organization; they were equipped with a range of infantry weapons and armoured personnel carriers. An additional 20,000 were the forces of armed tribal levies. There was no available information on whether children were part of paramilitary groups.9

Armed political and tribal groups

The security forces faced threats posed by Islamist and tribal armed groups. Yemen’s mountainous topography contributed to a lack of central government control in the more remote governorates, which in turn enhanced the authority of the country’s well-armed autonomous tribes. In July 2005 armed tribal militia blocked fuel deliveries in Sana’a to protest against proposed reductions in fuel subsidies. Tribesmen, particularly in the north, sometimes kidnapped foreign tourists and workers in order to extract political and economic concessions from the government.10

According to 2004 reports, children were widely involved, often forcibly, in tribal and family conflicts, and were often at risk of being killed,11 but no further information was obtained.

Developments: 

In consideration of Yemen’s third periodic report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the lack of birth registration for a significant number of children, and recommended that Yemen take appropriate measures to ensure the registration of all births.12

International standards

Yemen acceded to the Optional Protocol on 2 March 2007 and declared that it was committed to retaining 18 years as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the Yemeni armed forces, as well as to retaining the ban on the compulsory or voluntary recruitment of any person under 18 years of age.13

* Titles of non-English language sources have been translated by the Coalition.

1 Global Security, “Al-Shabab al-Mum’en/Shabab al-Moumineen (Believing Youth)”, www.globalsecurity.org.

2 Yemen Ministry of Defence, www.yemen.gov.ye.

3 “Al-Qaeda blamed for Yemen attack”, Al-Jazeera, 3 July 2007; “Yemen kills al-Qaeda fugitive”, Al-Jazeera, 15 January 2007, http://english.aljazeera.net.

4 “Yemen: Despite ban on arms, activists warn of increasing violence”, IRIN, 8 July 2007.

5 “Al-Shabab al-Mum’en”, above note 1.

6 US Library of Congress, Country profile: Yemen, http://lcweb2.loc.gov.

7 Confidential source, Yemen, April 2007.

8 Jane Novak, “Yemen: from nepotism to internal jihad”, Worldpress.org, March 2007, www.worldpress.org.

9 Country profile, above note 6.

10 Ibid.

11 Yemen National NGOs Coalition, The Third NGOs’ Alternative Periodic Report on Rights of the Child, www.crin.org.

12 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Yemen, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.267, 21 September 2005.

13 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.