November 30th, 2006 02:34 EST
U.N. Report Cites Burma, Sudan for Using Child Soldiers
United Nations -- Burma and Sudan have been singled out by the United Nations for continuing to use child soldiers despite repeated international demands to stop. The two governments were featured in a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan that cited 38 groups in 12 countries for using children in armed conflict.
The Security Council reviewed the situation during a daylong public debate November 28 and strongly condemned the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, the killing, rape, maiming and abduction of children, and the denial of humanitarian aid.
"It is important that the United Nations, the Security Council, and our governments keep the issue of children and armed conflict in our focus, particularly in light of the alarming estimate that some 300,000 children are today involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide," said U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders.
Sanders, U.S. representative to the United Nation for special political affairs, said that plight of child soldiers is particularly dire in Burma, Sudan and the parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda in which the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) operates.
In Uganda, about 25,000 children have been abducted by the LRA, Sanders said. "Children abducted by the LRA are often forced to participate in acts of extreme violence, including beating or hacking to death fellow child captives who have tried to escape. Girls as young as 12 are given to commanders as 'wives.'"
Burma is thought to have the largest number of child soldiers in the world. Human Rights Watch has documented the widespread forced recruitment of boys as young as 11 by Burma's national army, Sanders said. The ambassador also said that Burmese forces systematically rape women and girls, particularly of the Shan, Karen, Karenni, and other ethnic minorities, as an instrument of war.
Although Burma's military regime admits to the recruitment, claims to have taken action against five officials, and has set up a committee to prevent the practice, evidence continues to emerge that the recruitment of child soldiers has not ceased, Sanders said.
The Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, which is based in Thailand, said in a September 2006 report that little had changed on Burma's forced recruitment of child soldiers and the regime has done little to protect children from being recruited into the military. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers has estimated that about 90,000 individuals – 20 percent of the Burmese army and ethnic insurgency forces -- are under the age of 18.
The U.N. secretary-general said that despite the fact that the United Nations has not been allowed in Burma to verify the situation, the United Nations has received detailed and credible allegations that forced recruitment continues. UNICEF also has attempted to work with the government on developing a national plan of action to stop forced recruitment, but the government has not been forthcoming.
In Sudan, both the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have recruited children. In Darfur, government and paramilitary forces, Jingaweit militias, the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) led by Minni Minawi, and the Chadian opposition forces have been recruiting and using children. "It is estimated that thousands of children are still associated with armed forces and groups in Darfur and were actively involved in the conflict between May and July 2006," Annan reported.
In Darfur, the practice of ethnically targeted sexual violence against girls and women continues, particularly in areas of displaced populations. Some 40 percent of the victims have been under 18 years old, and many of the attacks are carried out by uniformed men, the United Nations reported.
SUDAN MUST HALT RECRUITMENT
Sanders specifically called on the Sudanese government, which is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, to accept responsibility for the widespread recruitment and use of child soldiers and take immediate steps to halt these practices.
The nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch wants the U.N. Security Council to take stronger measures and punish users of child soldiers by imposing sanctions.
"These groups will keep using children until they're made to pay a heavy price for it," said Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch. "The Security Council should use its power to punish the groups that ruin the lives of vulnerable children and apply sanctions against them."
Despite intensifying efforts to stop the sexual exploitation and abuse of children by U.N. peacekeeping personnel, this exploitation has continued, according to the U.N. report. From January 2004 to August 2006, investigations involving 313 U.N. peacekeeping personnel resulted in 17 civilians being dismissed, and 17 police and 141 military personnel being sent home. Another 85 allegations are still under investigation.
Other violators listed in the report include: the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka; the Maoists in Nepal; five groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; armed militia groups affiliated with the Presidential camp and Forces Armées des Forces Nouvelles (FAFN) in Cote d'Ivoire; Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter Terrorism (ARPCT) and Union of the Islamic Courts (ICU) in Somalia; and guerrilla groups in the Philippines and Colombia.
Sanders said that the United States supports the active monitoring of the governments and armed groups cited in the U.N. report; talking with governments and groups to develop plans to eliminate the use of child soldiers; and continuing efforts to halt the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
Since 2001, the United States has contributed more than $34 million to prevent the recruitment of child combatants and assist in their demobilization and reintegration into communities.
For further information, see Human Trafficking.
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