May 12th, 2007 12:07 EST
Time To Demobilize Child Soldiers
The United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict has demanded that the parties in Sri Lanka and Nepal demobilize all child soldiers without delay, as it also examined new reports on children caught up in fighting in Uganda and Somalia.
In messages addressed to the Sri Lankan rebels known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as well as the so-called Karuna faction " which split from them and now supports Government troops " the Group, meeting yesterday, called for the cessation of child recruitment, respect for safe zones for children and guarantees of humanitarian access to all areas, according to the Office of the Secretary-General`s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Addressing the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which are now engaged in a peace process under UN monitoring, the Working Group called for the immediate liberation of child soldiers without waiting for further stages in that process.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon`s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, welcomed the actions of the Working Group.
"These recommendations send a strong message to the LTTE, a repeat offender who has been on the Secretary General`s list of violators for four years and to the Karuna faction-TMVP. They have to stop grave violations of children`s rights, especially the recruitment and the use of children in the conflict in Sri Lanka," she said.
"In regard to Nepal, we hope that the children who remain in the ranks of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) will be demobilized and reintegrated in their communities without delay," added Ms. Coomaraswamy.
During the Working Group meeting, Ms. Coomaraswamy gave a briefing on her recent visit to Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Group was established pursuant to by the Security Council in 2005 to promote the protection of children in armed conflict through a monitoring and reporting mechanism, and to recommend actions on the issue to the UN system.
Mr. Ban`s report on Somalia, also presented to the Group yesterday, estimates that more than one third of the victims who were killed and injured in fighting there in 2006 were children, with violence in Southern and Central Somalia is characterized by grave child rights violations.
In addition, he says, continued fighting in and around Mogadishu between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and remnants of the Union of Islamic Courts forces has resulted in more casualties and violations against children in 2007.
"The recruitment and use of child soldiers by the TFG and other armed groups is a significant concern," he says.
The report says that humanitarian access in Somalia has been severely compromised, with serious implications for children. In the absence of a functioning police and judiciary, crimes against civilians, including women and children, are committed with impunity.
In the Uganda report, Mr. Ban said he was "deeply concerned over the absence of any concrete signs regarding the release of children associated with various forces."
The conflict in the northern part of the country, which began in 1986, pits the Government and local forces against the Lord`s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group which has become notorious for abducting children and then using them as soldiers or porters, while allocating many girls to senior officers in a form of institutional rape.
He urged the leaders of the LRA to take immediate steps to end child recruitment and the use of child soldiers, and to immediately release all children to child protection agencies.
He also called upon Ugandan Government forces to allow independent monitoring visits to military barracks to determine the existence of any child soldiers either in their ranks or in the ranks of allied local defence forces.