UNICEF hails International Criminal Court arrest of suspect in child conscription

18 March 2006

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today lauded the International Criminal Court's (ICC) arrest of a man accused of conscripting and enlisting children to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“It is important to protect children from being recruited and used in armed conflict,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said, reacting to Friday's arrest of Thomas Lubanga by ICC.

“Wars must never be fought by children. Whether children are forcibly recruited, join armed groups in order to escape poverty or hunger, or enlist to actively support a cause, the first loss is their childhood,” she said.

UNICEF estimates that at any given time, up to 300,000 children globally are being used in armed groups and forces in a variety of roles, including as combatants, cooks, porters, messengers, spies and for sexual purposes.

Mr. Lubanga, a Congolese national and alleged founder and leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais, was arrested in Kinshasa on Friday and transferred to the ICC in The Hague as part of the judicial proceedings under the Rome Statute, which makes the conscription, enlistment or use of children under 15 in hostilities by national armed forces or armed groups a war crime.

He is the first person to be arrested and transferred to the ICC since the Rome Statute took effect in 2002.

 

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