Saudi Arabia has handed over to Yemen’s government 54 child prisoners who were captured during fighting with the rebel Houthi militia,Yemen’s foreign minister said Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi said that the children were between 8 and 17 years old and that their release showed that Yemen’s government and the Saudi-led military coalition supporting it
“reject the Houthi crime of using children in war.”
“will be freed in addition to those who had been freed in Marib,”
Mr. Mekhlafi posted on his Twitter account, referring to a previous prisoner release in a province east of the capital, Sana.
Human Rights Watch said this month that both sides in Yemen’s conflict had deployed child soldiers, and Unicef reported in March that 900 children were killed and 1,300 wounded during the conflict in 2015.
The Houthi rebels have not commented on the accusations. But Houthi fighters often have their sons volunteer for service.
A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s conflict in March 2015 when the Houthis advanced on the southern port city of Aden and forced President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government into exile in Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis, who belong to the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, and Yemen’s Saudi-backed government began peace talks sponsored by the United Nations in April to try to end a war that has killed at least 6,200 people and caused a humanitarian crisis in the country.
The United Nations’ special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said this week that the parties attending peace talks in Kuwait had agreed to unconditionally free all child prisoners.