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Saturday, May 22, 2010

UN chief urges action against child soldiers

Saturday, May 22, 2010
By EDITH M. LEDERER (AP) – 

 

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to consider tough measures against countries and insurgent groups that persist in recruiting child soldiers.
 
The U.N. chief's annual report to the council for the first time includes a list of violators that have been monitored for at least five years, including Somalia's transitional government, Congo's armed forces, Myanmar's army, and rebel groups in Congo, Myanmar, the Philippines, Colombia, Sudan and Uganda.

The report also names two parties that try to maim or kill children in conflict — Somalia's government and al-Shabab Islamist militants trying to overthrow it. And for the first time it names seven parties that commit rape and sexual violence against youngsters -- six in Congo and Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, which is notorious for kidnapping children and using them as fighters and sex slaves.

"We still live in a world with those who would use children as spies, soldiers and human shields," Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special representative for children in armed conflict, said in a statement. "The shifting nature of conflict has put many children on the front lines. Too often children become collateral damage during military operations."

A resolution adopted by the Security Council in 2005 took the first major step to prevent the victimization of young people in war zones by addressing the exploitation of children as combatants. Last year, the U.N. reported that there were still some 250,000 child soldiers.

The Security Council voted unanimously in August 2009 to name and shame countries and insurgent groups engaged in conflicts that lead to children being killed, maimed and raped. The resolution reaffirmed the council's intention "to take action" — including possible sanctions — against governments and insurgent groups that continue violating international law protecting children's rights.

The secretary-general recommended in the report that the council "weigh more vigorous measures against persistent violators who have been listed in my annual report for grave violations against children."
The largest number of persistent violators are in Congo, where the report noted that despite positive steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible, "known perpetrators of grave crimes against children" have been appointed to government or senior military positions.

In addition to the Congolese armed forces, the list includes units of the rebel National Council for the Defense of the People, formerly led by Laurent Nkunda and Bosco Ntaganda; the Rwandan Hutu militia known as the FDLR; and the rebel Nationalist and Integrationist Front and Mai-Mai groups in North and South Kivu.
The report names three separatist groups fighting in the Philippines — Abu Sayyaf, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the New People's Army — as persistent violators.

The Karenni Army and Karen National Liberation Army fighting the government in Myanmar are also on the list, as are Uganda's LRA, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the country's smaller National Liberation Army, and the Sudan People's Liberation Army and Sudan's pro-government militias.

The secretary-general welcomed the signing of action plans to end recruitment and use of child soldiers by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, though they remain on the list, and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist which has released all minors.

Ban removed one rebel group from the list — Burundi's National Liberation Force or Palipehutu-FNL — following U.N. verification that all children associated with it have been reunited with their families. But three groups were added to the list for recruiting children, the Afghan National Police, the Central African Republic's rebel Committee of Patriots for Justice and Peace, and Somalia's Hizbul Islam.

Source: Associated Press

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