UN must penalise Maoists for using children: HRW

Kathmandu, November 27:

Fourteen armed groups around the world — including the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist and two governments — that refused repeated UN demands to stop using child soldiers should be subject to sanctions, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today in New York.

Since 2002, these “persistent violators” have been identified in four reports published by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as violating international standards that prohibit the recruitment and use of child soldiers, a press statement issued here said. It said the Security Council is scheduled to debate the 2006 report tomorrow.

The parties in the UN list include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, the Maoists in Nepal, the government of Myanmar, guerrilla groups and paramilitary forces in Colombia, Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army and other parties from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and the Philippines.

“These groups have repeatedly and shamelessly defied the Security Council by using children as soldiers,” said Jo Becker, HRW’s children’s rights advocate. “The Security Council should use its power to punish the groups that ruin the lives of vulnerable children, and impose sanctions against them.”

A report released this month by Annan identified 38 parties from 12 countries that have recruited or used children as soldiers in the past year. It named 16 parties from nine countries as having violated the standards for the fourth consecutive time.

The council has repeatedly called on parties to armed conflict to end all recruitment and use of child soldiers and has demanded that they engage in dialogue with the UN and develop concrete action plans to end the use of children. However, none of the 16 “persistent violators” has developed a credible action plan to end child recruitment, and only parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo have participated in any notable demobilisation of children from their ranks in the past year, the statement said.

“The Security Council cannot let groups use and abuse children year after year without paying a penalty,” Becker said.