Children still ‘used and abused’ despite historic peace accord — Global Issues

While welcoming a decrease in violations, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) recalled that the reference period – between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021 – coincided with the pandemic of COVID-19, hampering the UN’s ability to confirm abuse. .

Children are still used and abused by parties to conflict“, she said.

Girls have been particularly affected by serious violations, representing a third of the 330 children affected, which is above the CAAC program average of 23%.

Forced to fight

The most significant violation, which affected 220 children, saw them recruited and mistreated by armed groups, including dissident FARC-EP fighters, which were the main perpetrators, as well as the militant group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN ).

The links between displacement and serious violations, in particular threats of child recruitment that force families to move, are also of concern.

Special Representative called on all armed groups to immediately stop recruiting and using children and release those in their ranks, so that they can return to their communities and participate in reintegration programs.

She also recalled that boys and girls associated with armed groups and forces should above all be considered as victims.

Children attacked

The murder and dismemberment of 118 children were also recorded during the reporting period, mainly as a result of gunshot wounds, anti-personnel landmines, unexploded ordnance and air attacks.

Ms. Gamba stressed that Colombia remains one of the countries most affected by explosive remnants of war.

She called on the armed groups to cease the use of indiscriminate explosive devices and encouraged the Government to step up mine clearance and mine risk education activities throughout the country.

“In addition, all parties should take all necessary measures to protect children during military operations and activities, in accordance with international humanitarian law, in particular the precautionary principle, ”added the Special Representative.

“Armed clashes in areas where civilians and children are present must be planned and executed with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions and to ensure the protection of non-combatants.”

Other violations verified included rape and sexual violence, which are generally underreported for fear of stigma, retaliation and lack of services to survivors.

Make progress

During the reporting period, the reintegration of children released from armed groups continued, with 323 enrolled in specialized programs, according to the Colombian Institute for the Protection of the Family.

In addition, the High Commission for Peace, a political office of the state executive, recognized that an additional 232 former FARC-EP combatants were children at the time of laying down of arms and received reintegration services. .

The Special Representative welcomed the progress made in government accountability and transitional justice mechanisms, as well as the new policy measures adopted to strengthen child protection and prevent violations.

“Preventive measures, including a new policy to prevent the recruitment and use of children and sexual violence against children, as well as a national strategy focused on highlighting the risks of recruitment are welcome steps in the right direction to strengthen the prevention of serious violations and strengthen the protection of boys and girls against them, ”said Ms. Gamba.

“My office and our United Nations colleagues in the field remain available to support the Colombian authorities in the implementation of such preventive measures.”

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