Due to the protracted conflict and tenuous political situation, the government faced serious challenges to combat trafficking, including substantial internal security threats, weak institutions, systemic corruption, economic deprivation, food insecurity, social disintegration, limited territorial control, and poor law enforcement capabilities. Although the ROYG did not exercise complete control over all government-controlled areas and formal state institutions, increased government reporting suggests some, albeit limited, capacity to address trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The absence of a law criminalizing all forms of trafficking and the government’s conflation of human trafficking with migrant smuggling hindered government efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders. Article 248 of the penal code criminalized slavery and prescribed penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. However, Article 248 narrowly focused on transactions and movement, and therefore did not criminalize many forms of labor and sex trafficking as defined under international law. Article 279 criminalized child sex trafficking under its prostitution provision and prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment, which could be increased to up to 15 years’ imprisonment under aggravating circumstances; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2014, the government adopted a bill that it subsequently referred to the Parliament, which aimed to combat all forms of trafficking, protect and assist victims, generate societal awareness of the risks of trafficking to reduce the incidence of the crime, and promote national cooperation.
Although the ROYG had some oversight over its court system, experts noted due to conflict-inflicted infrastructure damage, severe staff shortages, financial and security challenges, weak law enforcement capacity, and the fragmented nature of authority in several areas in Yemen, the government was unable to ensure judicial institutions functioned fully across the country during the year. Moreover, officials continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes, which may have limited the ROYG’s ability to hold traffickers accountable during the year. Nonetheless, the government reported investigating one case of alleged sex trafficking involving two traffickers, although it did not report the outcome of the investigation or whether it remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The government did not provide updates on the sex trafficking case that was pending prosecution at the close of the previous reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, including the alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers by the YAF, inhibiting law enforcement action. The government reported it received training from an international organization on preventing and reintegrating former child soldiers, but did not report if it conducted training on trafficking for any government officials or provided support to NGOs or international organizations that may have conducted anti-trafficking training throughout the year.
ROYG authorities and institutions that oversaw migrant flows, provided services and protection to migrants, and assisted vulnerable groups – which may have interacted with trafficking victims – exhibited minimal function during the year. The government had limited capacity to identify and provide adequate protection services to trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as women in commercial sex and migrant workers, some of whom were in transit to the Gulf States; instead, the government generally relied on NGOs and international organizations to identify potential victims of trafficking and provide assistance. Although formal SOPs for proactive identification of trafficking victims existed, the government did not make efforts to implement or train law enforcement on these procedures due to prolonged unrest; consequently, some potential victims – such as women in commercial sex, migrant workers, and vulnerable migrants traveling to the Gulf through Yemen – may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. Observers noted significant barriers to care for vulnerable migrants, versus Yemeni citizens, especially in ROYG-controlled areas, due to discrimination. This, coupled with the government’s conflation of trafficking and smuggling crimes, suggested the government likely penalized unidentified foreign trafficking victims during arrest and detention campaigns of migrants being smuggled through Yemen. The government was not able to encourage victims to assist in investigations or prosecutions of traffickers and was financially unable to provide assistance to its nationals repatriated after enduring trafficking abroad.
Due to its broad lack of access and capacity limitations, as well as the ongoing conflict, the government did not make sufficient efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The government maintained the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to Council of Ministers Decision No.46 of 2012; its members included governmental and nongovernmental representatives. The government reported the committee was unable to meet during the reporting period due to unstable conditions in the country, the lack of functioning state institutions, and the need to prioritize the worsening humanitarian crisis. A draft national strategy to combat trafficking, initiated by the Ministry of Human Rights in a previous reporting period in coordination with an international organization, remained pending. The draft included plans for raising awareness, increasing cooperation between Yemen and neighboring countries, training officials in victim identification, and instituting procedures to protect victims. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel and did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
During the reporting period, both government-aligned and Houthi militia forces continued to unlawfully recruit and use child soldiers. Since the escalation of armed conflict in March 2015, human rights organizations reported all parties to the conflict continued their unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. Despite a six-month truce and continued de-escalation during the reporting period that reduced overall conflict-related violence, documentation of such cases remained challenging due to security threats against the monitors and communities of interest and continued access restrictions. The ROYG made efforts to implement a 2014 UN action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers and the subsequent 2018 roadmap agreement with the UN to implement the plan; efforts including reactivating the inter-ministerial committee on children and armed conflict and organizing training sessions on child protection in coordination with an international organization. Moreover, the government held a three-day workshop of the Joint Technical Committee of the Government of Yemen to discuss priority activities to expedite the implementation of the 2014 action plan and 2018 related roadmap. Additionally, the ROYG developed a 2022-2024 National Plan for the Rehabilitation of Child Recruits, which reportedly aimed to provide the necessary psychosocial and educational support to reintegrate former child soldiers into society. In April 2022, the Houthis signed an action plan with the UN pledging to end recruitment and use of child soldiers, killing and maiming children, and ending attacks on schools and hospitals. Nonetheless, due to continued military activity by government and Houthi forces, tribal elements, and other foreign-backed militias during the reporting period, the recruitment, training, and mobilization of children as participants in the conflict by the Houthis continued, and on a limited basis, by affiliated governmental armed forces, including the YAF. An independent human rights commission reported armed groups used boys mostly in combatant roles, to guard checkpoints, lay land mines, and to drive military vehicles, and forced other children to carry out support duties such as delivering supplies, escorting, and logistics. During the reporting period, media reported the continued use of “summer camps” by the Houthis to indoctrinate, recruit, and use children; in May 2022, Houthi officials reported 57 camps were launched in Sana’a and reportedly attended by children as young as 10. Reportedly, these camps were held in schools with the objective to deliver cultural, ideological, political, and religious sessions, and in some cases, military and combat training. During the reporting period, cases of the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers occurred with some familial knowledge or consent, and monetary and material support were reportedly incentives for joining both the Houthis and the YAF. In 2022, Yemeni officials did not report demobilizing any child soldiers. In 2022, the government operated the re-opened Saudi-funded interim care center in Marib to assist former child soldiers.