For Immediate Release
UN: Punish Abuse of Children in War
Known Child Recruiters Promoted to Key Government, Military Posts
NEW YORK - The United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions on
governments and armed groups for using child soldiers, sexual violence
against children, and attacks on schools, and should promote effective
prosecution of the commanders responsible, Human Rights Watch said
today. The Security Council will hold an open debate on children and
armed conflict on Wednesday, April 29, 2009.
On April 22, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon identified 56 governments
and armed groups from 14 countries that are violating international
laws prohibiting the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Sixteen of
these parties have been included in each of the lists published by the
secretary-general since he began making the names of violators public
"The Security Council has said that it will consider sanctions
against governments and armed groups that refuse to end their use of
child soldiers," said Jo Becker, children's rights advocate at Human
Rights Watch. "Instead, it has allowed these crimes against children to
continue for years."
Governments that have been listed in six consecutive reports from
the secretary-general to the Security Council include the government
forces of Burma, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the
armed groups include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri
Lanka, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the
National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, and the Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA) in Uganda.
Human Rights Watch highlighted several cases in which military
commanders in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sri Lanka who are
well-known for their use of child soldiers are now in government or
senior military positions.
- In Congo, Jean-Pierre Biyoyo was recently appointed a colonel in
the Congolese army despite being convicted by a military court in March
2006 of recruiting children as soldiers while a leader of the Mudundu
40 militia. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but escaped three
months later, in June 2006.
- Bosco Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army in January,
despite being wanted on an arrest warrant by the International Criminal
Court (ICC) for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers and using
them in hostilities. In addition to the ICC charges, Ntaganda has been
accused of commanding troops that massacred 150 civilians at Kiwanja in
North Kivu province in November 2008.
- In Sri Lanka, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (known as Colonel
Karuna) became the minister of national integration and reconciliation
in April. Prior to April 2004, he was the commander of the LTTE's
eastern division and was responsible for recruiting thousands of
children into LTTE ranks. He subsequently broke with the LTTE and
formed an armed force known as the Karuna Group, which allied with the
government and then abducted hundreds of children for use as soldiers
under Karuna's command.
"For a state to appoint a known child recruiter to a senior
government or military position is simply outrageous," said Becker.
"Governments should be prosecuting these individuals for war crimes,
not rewarding them."
Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to impose
sanctions, including arms embargoes, travel bans, and asset freezes
against individuals and parties that have persistently recruited and
used child soldiers in violation of international law. It also called
for criminal prosecution of individual child recruiters by national
courts or through referral to the ICC, which has jurisdiction to try
individuals who have enlisted children under 15 years old or used them
in hostilities for war crimes. To date, seven individuals have been
issued arrest warrants by the court for such crimes.
Human Rights Watch also called on the Security Council to take
stronger action to stop sexual violence against children and attacks
affecting education. In Congo alone, tens of thousands of women and
girls have been subject to sexual violence since the war began in 1996,
with no sign this violence is decreasing. Nearly one-third of those
brutalized by rape are children.
According to UNESCO, the number of attacks on schools, teachers, and
students increased sixfold between 2003 and 2006. In Afghanistan,
roughly 600 schools remained closed as of March following attacks by
anti-government forces. In southern Thailand, insurgents have burned
down more than 280 schools.
An assessment by Human Rights Watch found that in 2008 the Security
Council's working group on children and armed conflict issued 83
recommendations related to the use of child soldiers, but only 13
related to sexual violence and only three regarding attacks affecting
"Children who have been raped or are denied an education because of
attacks on schools also deserve strong Security Council action," Becker
On April 22, 62 nongovernmental organizations representing parents
in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo appealed to the Security
Council in a letter
to end abuses against children in the conflict. The groups cited
continued killings, rape and sexual violence, attacks on schools, and
recruitment of child soldiers in the conflict areas of eastern Congo.
"We deplore the guilty silence that has prevailed until now among
our leaders and the international community," the groups stated. "All
of these crimes, whose perpetrators are often well-known, take place in
a context of total impunity."
The organizations called on the Security Council to impose sanctions
on perpetrators, develop an action plan for Congo that addresses sexual
violence and violence affecting education, and strengthen efforts to
demobilize child soldiers and reintegrate them into their communities.
The Security Council has required the UN to negotiate action plans
with governments and armed groups to end their use of child soldiers.
Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to expand these
action plans to address sexual violence against children and attacks on
education. It also called for the Security Council to impose targeted
sanctions against perpetrators of these crimes.
To read Human Rights Watch's recommendations to the Security Council on sexual violence and attacks on education, please visit:
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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.