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UN: Security Council Should Act Against Child Recruiters

February 12, 2008

The UN Security Council should impose sanctions against government and rebel forces that persist in using child soldiers, Human Rights Watch said this week. The Security Council is holding an open debate today on children and armed conflict.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has identified 58 governments and armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers in violation of international law. Of these, 14 parties to armed conflict are repeat violators that have been named in five consecutive reports from the secretary-general between 2002 and 2008. These forces include the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the FARC and ELN guerrillas in Colombia, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and the government forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar.

“Both government and rebel forces have recruited and used child soldiers year after year in defiance of both international law and repeated appeals from the Security Council,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocate for Human Rights Watch. “The Security Council must show that it’s serious about holding these forces accountable for their exploitation of children.”

In resolutions adopted in 2004 and 2005, the Security Council stated it would consider targeted measures, including arms embargoes, against parties to armed conflict that refused to end their use of child soldiers.

Nevertheless, the Security Council has imposed sanctions against only one individual for the use of child soldiers. In February 2006, its sanctions committee for Cote d’Ivoire imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on a former commander from Cote d’Ivoire, Martin Koukakou Fofie. The remaining violators remain untouched by the Security Council.

“The Security Council can’t afford to keep making empty threats,” said Becker. “Military commanders must know that if they continue recruiting children into their ranks, they will face sanctions or an arms embargo.”

The secretary-general’s most recent report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict was issued publicly on January 29. It lists 58 parties to armed conflict in 13 countries that are in violation of international standards prohibiting the use of children in armed conflict. Of the 58 parties, the 14 that have been listed in each of the secretary-general’s reports since 2002 are: Parti de libération du peuple hutu (Palipehutu)-Forces nationales pour la libération (FNL) (Burundi); Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) and Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) (Colombia); Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Front des nationalistes et integrationalistes (FNI), and the Mai Mai (Democratic Republic of Congo); the Myanmar national army (Tatmadaw Kyi) (Burma/Myanmar); Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (Nepal); Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and New People’s Army (NPA) (Philippines); the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (Sri Lanka); Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) (Sudan); and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) (Uganda).

UN statement
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said the Security Council must “take concrete and targeted measures” against those parties that persistently use or abuse children during armed conflicts around the world.

Addressing the Council during a day-long open debate, she noted the ongoing impunity for those persistent violators that use or abuse children during wars.

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Myanmar and from Sri Lanka to Uganda, parties to armed conflicts kill, maim, abduct or sexually assault children; deny humanitarian access to children in need; and recruit and use child soldiers. In total, at least 58 parties are known to be offenders.

Ms. Coomaraswamy called for the establishment of a mechanism by the 15-member Council to review and oversee targeted measures against violators to end their impunity.

“It is most important that the Council make good on its promise in order to ensure the credibility of this exercise,” she said. “The targeted measures could include the imposition of travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions, the imposition of arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance, and restriction on the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned.”

While acknowledging that some parties have made important commitments in peace accords and action plans to stop recruiting child soldiers, the Special Representative warned that in some regional conflicts – such as those in the Great Lakes and Horn regions of Africa – cross-border recruitment from refugee camps is surging.

The detention of children for alleged association with armed groups is also worrying and a violation of international standards, she said, noting that many detained children face ill-treatment, torture, interrogations and food deprivation.

In addition, systematic and deliberate attacks against schoolchildren are escalating in numerous conflicts, particularly Afghanistan, while in the DRC and Burundi “appalling levels of sexual and gender-based violence” are occurring.

Representatives of dozens of countries then addressed the Council during today’s debate, which follows the recent release of a UN report stating that children are still recruited and used in armed conflicts in at least 13 nations worldwide.

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