UN reports list possible crimes against children in Yemen and Myanmar

War In Yemen 2
In Yemen, a displaced boy sits amid the rubble at his family’s destroyed home, in the northern city of Sa’ada

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Refugees and internally displaced people

Killings, air strikes and recruitment into armed forces are just some of the violent acts that could be prosecuted as war crimes or genocide.

Children maimed and killed. Children recruited as child soldiers. Children terrified and traumatised by air strikes, bombings and mass murder.

Those are some of the shocking findings from two United Nations reports released today that list potential war crimes in Yemen and genocide in Myanmar.

“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimise civilian casualties,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen. 

The group said air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have caused heavy civilian casualties at marketplaces, weddings, funerals and in residential areas in the Middle Eastern country. 

The experts also said educational facilities were damaged or destroyed by air strikes – even though they are on “no-strike” lists held by the coalition. 

Child Soldier Yemen

Child recruitment has been a long-term problem in Yemen (UNICEF / Brooks)

Although the report does not list the number of schools hit, a UN report revealed in June there were 20 attacks on schools in 2017, with 19 of those attributed to the coalition. 

That report said 1316 children were killed or maimed, with 51% of casualties caused by air strikes. It reported that 842 children were recruited by armed groups and the UN verified eight incidents of the military use of schools.

The Group of Experts’ report covers from September 2014 to June 2018. It said individuals in the Yemeni government, rebel authorities and the coalition – including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – had all committed acts “that may amount to war crimes”.

It said sides in the conflict have conscripted children aged between 11 and 17 – but sometimes as young as eight – and made them take part in the hostilities. It added: “According to witnesses and sources, in some areas Houthi-Saleh forces forcibly recruited children in schools.”

A separate UN report today said leading military figures in Myanmar should be prosecuted for genocide in Rakhine State, where more than 700,000 Rohingya people fled from violence last year.

Rohingya Genocide Un

Rohingya children struggle with new life in refugee camps (UNHCR)

The report said: “Children were subjected to, and witnessed, serious human rights violations including killing, maiming and sexual violence. Children were killed in front of their parents and young girls were targeted for sexual violence. 

“Of approximately 500,000 Rohingya children in Bangladesh, many fled alone after their parents were killed or after being separated from their families.”

A year on from the violence, the lives and futures of more than 380,000 children in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh are in peril, according to UNICEF.

The UN children’s agency warned last week that Rohingya refugee children who lack proper education could become a “lost generation”.

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