The recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is taking place in more than one dozen countries around the world, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states in a new report, calling for further measures to combat the scourge.
The practice continues in Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Uganda, Mr. Ban notes in his latest report on children and armed conflict, covering the period from October 2006 to August 2007.
On the positive side, he reports that no new cases of child recruitment have been recorded during that period in Côte d’Ivoire. The parties to the conflict there have not only ceased recruitment but have taken measures to identify and release children associated with them for rehabilitation, Mr. Ban writes.
Regarding specific issues of concern, the Secretary-General points to the close link between child recruitment and internal displacement, noting that the lack of security around refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) camps and the “convenient concentration of vulnerable children” make these camps “prime recruiting grounds.”
There have been reports that the Karuna faction have abducted and recruited children from IDP camps in Sri Lanka, while in the DRC, children have been recruited from camps in North Kivu Province by forces loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.
In addition, the Secretary-General notes that girls, and sometimes boys, are targeted with various forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, during armed conflicts. For example, 60 per cent of cases of sexual and gender-based violence recorded in Kisangani, in northern DRC, involved victims between the ages of 11 and 17.
“It is imperative that perpetrators of acts of rape and other sexual violence which leave a long-term, devastating impact on the victims are prosecuted in accordance with the gravity of such crimes,” Mr. Ban writes.
The report also sounds the alarm about armed groups moving across borders to recruit children from refugee camps, especially along the Sudan-Chad border. Both Sudanese and Chadian armed groups are recruiting children from Sudanese refugee camps in eastern Chad, while Chadian refugee children are being recruited by Sudanese rebel groups in Darfur.
Another concern is the escalation in “systematic and deliberate attacks on schoolchildren, teachers and school buildings” in certain conflict situations, including Afghanistan and Iraq, which warrants increased attention and action by the global community, the Secretary-General states.
Mr. Ban says the Security Council should consider a range of measures, including bans on military aid and travel restrictions on leaders, targeting parties to armed conflict who continue to systematically commit grave violations against children.
He also encourages the Council to refer violations against children in armed conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In this regard, he points to “important precedents” set to end impunity for crimes against children. The Court has issued arrest warrants for five senior members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), including its leader, Joseph Kony, who faces charges including the forcible enlistment and use of children in hostilities.
The Secretary-General says the sentencing by the Special Court for Sierra Leone of three men and the conviction of a fourth for the recruitment and use of child soldiers “send an important message that such crimes against children will not be tolerated and that those who engage in the practice will be brought to justice.”
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