Amnesty calls on Yemen to tackle child rape

Children as young as eight were raped in the besieged Yemeni city of Taiz, Amnesty International said yesterday, pointing out that the suspects are militiamen backed by the Saudi-led coalition who have not yet been held accountable.

The rights watchdog reported the families of the four boys as saying that their children had been assaulted over the past eight months, adding that they had reported the assaults to the Taiz Criminal Investigation Department, but the local authorities did not take action.

“A pattern of impunity and reprisals has thus far discouraged families from reporting these incidents, especially since suspects are reported to be politically aligned with the local Islahi-controlled authorities,” it said.

“The Yemeni authorities must thoroughly investigate these allegations to signal that these crimes will not be tolerated and to protect the children’s families from reprisal. Suspects, including members of the fighting forces and community leaders in trusted positions, must be brought to justice in fair trials. Rape and sexual assault committed in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes. Commanders who fail to stop such heinous acts can themselves be responsible for war crimes,” said Heba Morayef, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

The heartbreaking testimonies of these young survivors and their families expose how the ongoing conflict has rendered children vulnerable to being sexually exploited in a city plagued by weak security and institutions.

“These victims and their families have been left unprotected and alone to face the horrific ordeal of sexual abuse and its aftermath,” she added.

Yemeni law punishes convicted sex offenders with the death penalty.