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Child soldiers continue to be recruited and used around the world, says UN report

Child soldiers continue to be recruited and used around the world, says UN report

Government forces, rebel groups, armed militia and mercenaries operating in conflicts in at least 12 countries recruit children to serve as soldiers or are responsible for murdering, torturing and committing sexual crimes against them, according to a new report from Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The report on children and armed conflict calls on the Security Council to maintain its pressure on those parties recruiting and using child soldiers to draw up time-bound action plans to end such behaviour.

Mr. Annan recommends that all countries which are party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child take specific measures to strengthen their protection of children, starting by signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

He also recommends enacting laws expressly prohibiting the recruitment of children under the age of 15 into armed forces, and much greater effort to be devoted to the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers.

The report to the General Assembly and Security Council finds that while progress has been made in some conflicts in protecting children, escalating violence in other places – particularly in the Middle East – “has resulted in thousands of child victims.”

In some areas, especially West Africa and the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, some rebel groups and bands of mercenaries are moving across borders to prey upon vulnerable children in neighbouring States.

The report lists parties in Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda as recruiting or using children as armed combatants or committing other abuses and violations against them.

The report has been released as Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, marked the Universal Day of the Child today by highlighting the terrible toll that war takes on children.

Thousands of children are suffering severe physical and mental trauma, she said in a media statement. “Children deserve protection. Violations of children’s rights must stop; impunity must end.”

Meanwhile, in Kathmandu, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a joint appeal to the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to make sure they make the well-being of children a priority as they negotiate and implement a comprehensive peace agreement.

OHCHR and UNICEF expressed concern that even now the Maoists are recruiting, voluntarily or forcibly, children in violation of both their own commitments and international standards.