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UN urges Sudan not to prosecute child rebels

KHARTOUM (AFP) The special UN envoy on human rights in Sudan urged the government on Thursday not to prosecute 89 "child rebels" arrested after an attack by Darfur rebels on Khartoum two months ago.

"We have recommended to the government that they should be treated as victims of war, not as combattants," Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan Sima Samar told a news conference during her sixth visit to Khartoum.

"They should not be prosecuted. They should be reintegrated into society and reunited with their families. So the government promised that they would do that," Samar added.

UN agencies and journalists have visited the 89 juveniles at a detention facility outside Khartoum, where they appear to be in good health.

"I ask the government to treat them as a victim of war, not to expose them too much to the media in order not put them in danger and ensure their security in the future," said Samar, who will herself visit the children on Friday.

"During my visit I saw child soldiers everywhere almost, with the government forces and also with the different movements," she said.

"Child soldiers, as we all know, is a clear violation of international agreements and humanitarian law, and we condemn the (use of) child soldiers and we ask the government and also the rebel groups not to use the children."

Sudan says the children are aged from 11 to 17 and were press-ganged into Darfur rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement which attacked Khartoum.

Sudan has pledged to accord the children all rights, including special courts should they face legal proceedings.

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