Children conscripted to fight for Houthi rebels in Yemen have been subjected to sexual abuse and indoctrinated to believe that it was their Islamic duty to fight the pro-government forces, according to a Saudi aid organisation.
The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) opened a rehabilitation centre for former child soldiers in Marib province earlier this year, in co-operation with a local partner, Wethaq Civic Foundation, a children rehabilitation project.
So far 161 children have successfully completed the programme, says Najeeb Al Sadi, director of the centre in Marib province, adding that the project aims to eventually reach more than 2,000 children, most of whom come from Marib, Al Jawf, Taiz, Sanaa, Amran and Hodeidah.
“About 16 per cent of these children that have come to the facility in Marib have said they were exposed to sexual assault by Houthi officials along the fronts or other older fighters,” Mr Al Sadi said.
The project aims to offer psychological and educational rehabilitation for former child soldiers and war-affected children "in a manner that facilitates their reintegration into society, in addition to targeting school re-enrolment, which they were forced to abandon due to being used in the war by the Iranian-backed Houthi Militia,” KSRelief said in a statement.
Since March 2015, the United Nations has documented over 2,300 cases of child recruitment in Yemen's civil war.
Mr Al Sadi said the staff is qualified to deal with children who have been traumatised and it includes psychologists and educational teachers. “They learn the same lessons as they would have by attending a public school, and we also have psychologists to treat the children and figure out how they ended up fighting with the Houthis,” he said.
He also estimated that nearly 12,000 children had been recruited by Houthi rebels in the northern provinces, adding that 70 per cent of the children fighters are under the age of 15.
Mr Al Sadi said that many children recounted stories of their schools being stormed by the Iran-backed group, adding many were transported to battlefronts without their parents’ knowledge.
“They’ve told us stories about being raped and the rapes being videotaped, which would then be used to blackmail the children to make sure they don’t escape from the front,” he said. “Other stories included being forced to undertake difficult tasks, such as executing injured Yemeni soldiers.”
Recorded accounts and statements of children, heard and seen by The National, outline how some of the minors were taken to the front lines.
One 15-year-old, identified as Sadiq, said he was given drugs, including the stimulant Qat, and forced to join the rebels to support his family. “I was responsible for my family. My father is sick and unemployed, and we don’t have any source of income. The only thing I could do was join the Houthis, so I reluctantly did,” he said in written statement.
“I left school when I was in the third grade, and the Houthis took us to start digging trenches, after which they start training us on how to blow up opponents’ residences. “They kept telling that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are American and Israeli proxies … that if we did not fight them, we are not Muslims.”
The Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, intervened in the Yemen war in March 2015 at the request of the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Hadi to restore its power and push back the rebels after they took control of the capital Sanaa.
Another former child fighter, a 14-year-old who used the pseudonym Abdul Fatah, said he was taken by force by the militia from his home in Haja province.
“Houthis stormed my school and made the principal list our names to be conscripted. I ran home, but they chased me. They took me from my home as my mother was crying and begging them to leave me alone,” he said via phone.
“When I arrived to the front to start digging trenches, I refused. I was hit on the head and was unconscious for a while. I woke up in a Houthi official’s shack and he started to act strangely. The Houthi official called over another militia member and told him that he’s going to rape me and record it.”
Abdel Fatah said that he had no choice but to remain with the Houthi rebels and fight.
“They said they would send the video to all my friends… and I gave in.”
Sri Lankan batsman Danushka Gunathilaka has been suspended after a woman accused his friend of raping her in a hotel room where the player was allegedly present.
The 27-year-old opening batsman was suspended before the fourth day of the second Test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo.
Despite no accusations being made against the cricketer himself, Gunathilaka was suspended for breaching the team’s Code of Conduct which requires players to return to their hotel rooms by midnight on match days, and prohibits invitations to friends at that time.
“Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) decided to suspend Danushka Gunathilaka from all forms of international cricket for breaching the 'Player Code of Conduct', pending inquiry,” the SLC said in a statement. “The decision to suspend the player was taken following an initial inquiry conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket, after the team management reported that the player have violated the 'Code of Conduct'.”
The body said it will "withhold Gunathilaka’s fee for the ongoing Test match until the outcome of the inquiry."
On Sunday, Gunathilaka and his friend, whose name remains unknown, reportedly invited two Norwegian women to the hotel, with one of them later reporting to police that she had been raped by the player’s friend.
The man, who is believed to be a British citizen of Sri Lankan origin, was arrested as part of an investigation by Sri Lankan police.
Sri Lanka beat South Africa on Monday to record a 2-0 sweep and claim their first Test series win over the Proteas since 2006.
A former Canterbury cricketer jailed for child pornography has dropped his bid for name suppression.
Harley Thomas George James, 39, was sentenced to two years, three months' imprisonment at Christchurch District Court after admitting charges of distributing objectionable images online of child sexual abuse.
The North Canterbury father and pharmacy technician, who played five first-class matches for Canterbury between 1997 and 2001, was caught in possession 3450 images.
The images showed sexual activity with children as young as 2 years old.
When he was sentenced last month, District Court judge Brian Callaghan lifted James' interim name suppression. But his lawyer Andrew McCormick indicated it would be appealed to the High Court. However, the appeal was abandoned and James can now be named.
James, who attended Rangiora High School, is well-known in Canterbury sporting circles. He was a prolific teenage run-scorer and starred for Canterbury Country's Hawke Cup team.
After a 15-year absence from cricket, he played for Sefton in the Canterbury Country combined premier club cricket competition this year, often being a top performer with bat and ball.
Jacob Hoggard, lead singer of the band Hedley, was charged with sexual assault by Toronto police on Monday.
Hoggard, 34, was charged him with one count sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm.
The charges stem from three separate occasions with two different women.
Hoggard was accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and his band went on indefinite hiatus earlier this year.
He will appear in court on Thursday.
A FORMER MEMBER of the Defence Forces who recorded video footage of a young girl exposing herself during online contact has been given a six-year sentence with the final two years suspended.
David McCarton (38) was identified as a person of interest and the video images were recovered during a garda search following a police investigation in a different jurisdiction. The injured party, who cannot be identified, was aged between 11 and 13 years old at the time of the offence.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the young victim had believed she was communicating with a 14-year-girl. Gardaí also recovered images and movie files of child sexual abuse when searching McCarton’s home, for which he took full responsibility.
McCarton, of Knockmore Avenue, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of child sexual abuse images in May 2013 and sexual exploitation of a child on a date between December 2010 and May 2013. He has no previous convictions and has been in custody since last May.
McCarton also pleaded guilty to theft of a magazine clip and rounds of ammunition on a date between January 2012 and May 2013. McCarton told gardaí that these were blank rounds he had forgotten to give back. He was a serving member of the defence forces at the time but has since been medically discharged from the army.
His lawyers told the court McCarton has been suffering from the effects of an anti-malaria drug, Lariam, given to him in the course of his service during which he served two tours of Chad.
Judge Patricia Ryan had adjourned the case to allow a probation report be prepared after originally hearing evidence in the case last May. She noted she also had the benefit of a psychological report and testimonials on McCarton’s behalf.
Today, she noted in relation to the child sexual abuse images charge that the aggravating circumstances included the nature of the images, the effects on the children involved and that it had occurred over a period of time.
In mitigation she took into account that he had pleaded guilty, had accepted responsibility during the search of his home and had not come to any further garda attention since these offences. She noted his remorse, personal circumstances and his apparent insight into his offending behaviour.
Judge Ryan also noted the serious detrimental effect of the sexual exploitation offence on the young victim with whom McCarton had communicated online. She took into account his previous good record, his co-operation and that he was at moderate risk of re-offending.
She imposed a total of six years’ imprisonment with the final two years suspended on strict conditions including probation supervision, addressing his risk factors for re-offending and taking part in a sex offenders treatment programme. She backdated the sentence to when he went into custody.
Steven and Stanley Muchemwa, 31, raped the schoolgirl in their bedroom - sometimes when other children were also sleeping in the same room.
The court heard how Stanley told the girl he was "teaching her what to do for when she had a boyfriend".
The trial at Bolton Crown Court, Gtr Mancs., heard how Steven first started touching the girl early in 2016 when she was just 10 years old. The pair would go on to rape her in the school summer holidays after she had turned 11.
She told the court when Steven first raped her Stanley had walked into the room while the attack was happening but took no action to stop it.
Prosecuting, Kathryn Johnson, said: "Stanley had seen what his brother was doing. It was following that, that Stanley started to rape her." She added: "He would tell her he was teaching her what to do for when she had a boyfriend."
Ms Johnson went on to say Stanley had told the girl she would get into trouble if she told anyone about what had been happening.
She told her head teacher in October 2016, in what Judge Smith described as a "brave decision”. The girl's teacher said she was in an "extremely distressed state" when she began to explain her experiences.
Ms Johnson said: "Initially she wouldn't explain why she was so upset. She told the headteacher she had been abused. Police and social services attended and spoke to her and her mother was contacted."
The girl's mother told Judge Graeme Smith her world had "come crashing down around her" when she heard what had been happening. She said she was "completely shocked" after her daughter revealed the ordeal and "devastated" she had trusted the men to take care of her.
There had been a "massive change" in the girl's personality since the incidents and she had become "clingy" and was not sleeping well due to bad dreams.
Steven and Stanley were jailed for 14 and 15 years sentences respectively.
Both men, from Bolton, had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges - although Steven changed his plea to guilty before the trial began. Following a trial earlier this year, Stanley was found guilty of one count of sexual assault of a child under 13 and four counts of rape of a child under 13.
His brother Steven pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and seven counts of rape, both of a girl under 13.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of assault on a female and a further count of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
A former director of a homeless charity has been accused of historic child sex offences against a girl who was just nine years old when he allegedly began sexually touching her.
Peter Lewis, 77, a former member of the trustee board of the Cardiff-based Huggard homeless charity, faces 16 counts of indecent assault dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.
The complainant in the case, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims the defendant touched her breasts, bottom and vagina over a period of eight years from when she was nine years old to 17.
A police investigation was launched in 2017 after the complainant came forward and made an official complaint. She had previously gone to a police station to make a complaint in 2005 but didn't feel ready to proceed.
Lewis, of Station Road, Llanishen, denies the allegations against him. There is no suggestion the allegations relate to his role with Huggard. A trial began at Newport Crown Court on Monday, with prosecutor Jeffrey Jones opening the case after a jury panel had been sworn.
He said: "The Crown say quite clearly she was a child and was groomed by the defendant up to the age of 17. He used her selfishly for his own sexual desires."
He added: "(The complainant) remembers sexual assaults and sexual abuse beginning when she was around nine but certainly when she was 10. It began with him touching her legs and tickling her and progressed to touching her breasts and vagina under and over her clothing.
"His behaviour became more brazen. The abuse (sometimes) occurred in his house and in a shed or garage where he had a darkroom for photography. He was building a boat in the shed and when she was in the shed with him he would assault her in a similar fashion.
"The Crown say the touching went on almost daily on his part to her.
"How was he able to get away with it? She was young and didn’t know it was wrong, she became confused when she was older. There was an element of trust in the relationship and he made her feel special. There was a bond between them but he also had a temper and she had been told by him that if she told anybody he would likely go to prison and she in her youthfulness thought that she could go too and was therefore quiet."
The complainant later her told her mother and sister of the alleged abuse she suffered in the 1990s, and last had contact with the defendant in the same decade when she confronted him about the past.
Mr Jones added: "An official complaint was made by (the complainant) in 2017 and gave rise to a police investigation and gave rise to the police speaking to the defendant on August 22 last year.
"The allegations were put to him. He denied them all. He did say that back at the time when he was being told of these allegations he had admitted he had sexually touched her breasts but all the rest were fabricated.
"The prosecution say he is denying all these matters and can’t face the truth of these allegations. The Crown say (the complainant's) account is credible and her disclosures to people over the years are supportive to her speaking the truth. His admission of touching her though explained as a lie is an example of the great lie about the facts of sexual assault against (the complainant)."
A video was shown to the jury of the complainant telling police the allegations against the defendant, who was permitted to walk around the dock during the hearing due to a back problem.
During the interview, the complainant described a number of incidents where she claimed Lewis had sexually assaulted her. She said: "I remember feelings of discomfort. He started touching me up my legs and tickling. I felt out of control and vulnerable."
She added: "What felt worse than the sexual abuse was the how emotionally controlled I was. He was always there and we would have to do a special handwave. He would prevent me from seeing friends and he became jealous.
"He said he was a medium an had inherited Indian powers. On one occasion he got a penknife out of his pocket and cut his finger and my finger and rubbed them together and said 'we'll be joined forever'. He was like that every day that sort of wickedness and control."
The complainant also described how the defendant had told her that when he died he would come back as a robin and would watch her. She said: "I know it sounds stupid but even now when I see a robin I think 'is Peter dead?'."
When asked by the officer how the alleged abuse made her feel, the complainant said: "I felt nervous and I didn't know what was meant to happen. Sometimes it felt like a game but I was so anxious, really nervous and on edge.
"As I got older I felt angry and wanted it to stop. I felt like was wearing me down. I never felt forced but I always felt coerced. Nothing he did or said was massively scary but I felt there would be repercussions."
The trial continues.
A 13-year-old Aboriginal girl in foster care in a West Australian mining town has disclosed serious allegations of child abuse by a foster carer in whose family she was placed by the state’s child protection agency.
The girl has described how her male carer told another girl “Let’s go to the room” where “they was getting silly (having sex)”. She said the man put a blanket in the window to make it dark.
In an audio recording made by a relative and played to The Australian the girl was asked how many people the man was “getting silly to”.
The girl gave several names of children and teenage girls she said were being touched by the man, including a foster child aged about four. “All of the kids in that house, little ones, he’s touching,’’ she said.
The girl said the man was “getting worried for me” that she might tell others about the alleged abuse. “I was scared, I was thinking he was going to be rude (sexually abusive) to me.”
The girl described how the man — who with his partner has several foster children in his care — told her and a group of children to go to a nearby park while he was “getting silly” with a mother and her underage daughter in a house. “He said ‘wait in the park for me, I’ll be there’,’’ the girl said.
The Australian understands the recording was handed to a child protection worker late last week. But the girl, who was not removed from the carer, has since fled the town where she lives. She has previously been returned into the care of the man and his partner by child protection workers after she absconded several times.
Craig Somerville, deputy chairman of the West Australian Prison Review Board and former chief executive of WA Aboriginal Legal Service, who speaks the girl’s language, said he had listened to the girl’s recorded comments and they were extremely disturbing. “I’m definitely concerned there is a high level of abuse going on,” he said. “From what I heard, it’s very valid and there is no doubt the child is describing in detail what we know constitutes child sexual abuse, the procurement of children and encouraging of children to enter into sexual behaviour with other children.
“In my experience, kids don’t make things like this up.”
Actually, kids, especially in their teens, do make stuff up. It is rare, but it certainly happens in an effort for the kids to gain control over their guardians.
The remainder of the children under this guardian's care need to be carefully interviewed to see if there is any corroboration with the teen's story. I don't understand why it hasn't been done already?
Mr Somerville said powerful individuals in certain communities used their position to perpetrate abuse. “All caregivers in these communities should be reassessed and it should be determined how widespread the problems are,’’ he said.
“I’d want to be reassured that, with the tape handed over, it will lead to a high-level police investigation because no community can deal with this alone.”
Until you have determined that the girl's story is accurate, you are seriously over-reacting.
In January federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt alerted three McGowan government ministers to written allegations of extreme neglect and abuse of Aboriginal children in foster care in and around Newman, an inland mining town of about 7000 residents 1200km north of Perth.
The allegations included a claim that a girl placed with a foster carer had been subjected to “sexual approaches” from an adult male connected to her carer.
The claims, which Mr Wyatt passed on to the health, child protection and police ministers, follow a child abuse investigation in the Pilbara town of Roebourne last year. Police identified 184 Aboriginal child victims and at least 45 suspects in the town of about 1000 permanent residents.
This, is a serious problem! 184 child victims probably account for about half of the children in the town.
Simone McGurk, the Communities Minister responsible for child protection, told Mr Wyatt in a letter dated January 24 that her department had acted to identify the children in the allegations he raised with her.
“Communities have been able to identify only two families from the information provided, and can confirm there is current involvement with both families,” Ms McGurk told Mr Wyatt.
Seriously! Have they even talked to the police? 2 families!?? That is tragically inadequate.
When The Australian raised relatives’ fears for the welfare of the 13-year-old girl in care earlier this month, Ms McGurk said police and child protection had looked into her case. “So far all assessments of the department and police have not raised concerns,” she said.
Her departmental officers have told the girl’s relatives that she makes up stories and runs away from her carer couple whenever they are strict with her. They said the girl cannot be allowed to stay with a foster couple she seeks out because they have been deregistered as carers.
But the statement is contradicted by a formal document seen by The Australian, signed by two child protection workers and a police officer two weeks ago, that gives the couple permission to care for the girl for a short period.