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One third of abductions in Uganda involve children: top UN rights official

One third of abductions in Uganda involve children: top UN rights official

About one third of the more than 26,000 cases of abduction recorded to date in Uganda involved children under the age of 18, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said today in Geneva.

Mary Robinson told the top UN rights body -- the Commission on Human Rights -- that if there was no change in the situation, hundreds of children, both boys and girls, would be abducted by a rebel movement in the country known as the "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA). "Many of them," she said, "will ultimately perish in the bush, either as a result of the harsh living conditions or at the hands of other captives."

Reporting on her office's mission to Uganda, Sudan and Kenya over the past month to investigate the abduction of children in northern Uganda, Ms. Robinson noted that the vast majority of LRA fighters and camp followers were either children or had been children at the time of their abduction into the movement. The mission had heard that children abducted by the LRA were forced to carry out attacks in their home villages and were killed when trying to escape. Most women and girls who had been abducted were taken to serve as "wives" for LRA commanders.

Giving an overview of efforts in place to combat the problem, Ms. Robinson said that significant steps had been taken by Uganda towards the prevention of further abductions and the reintegration of child abductees who had escaped from the LRA. Throughout the major population centres in the affected areas, she added, local organizations had formed to mobilize support and assistance to affected families and returning children.

National and international efforts must be focused on expediting the return and reintegration of the children, she said, stressing the importance of education and vocational training for returnees.

Last night, the Commission, which is currently meeting in its 57th session, adopted resolutions on the situation of human rights in parts of south-eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar and Cuba.