CRI Update: Sudanese rebel group bans use of child soldiers, Pakistani girl released after being jailed for blasphemy, and more...
Sep 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Sudanese rebel group, issued a Command Order banning the use of child soldiers, directing its troops to "fully adhere to the international and local laws governing the protection of children in armed conflict." JEM ordered its troops to demobilize child soldiers and has prohibited future recruitment of children.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, presented an annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for greater protection of children and greater national accountabilities for perpetrators of human rights violations against children in times of conflict. She recommended that states criminalize underage recruitment, raise community awareness of child protection, address the root causes of "voluntary" recruitment such as poverty and social grievances, and ultimately provide alternatives to enrollment. Amid her advice, Zerrougui also highlighted UN developments in preventing child abuses during conflict in Central African Republic, Myanmar, Somalia, and South Sudan, as well as Nepal's removal from the UN Secretary-General's list of countries that recruit children.
Colombia's Defense Minister, Juan Carloz Pinzon, announced that 110 children demobilized from illegal armed militias in 2012. In the last ten years, approximately 3,400 minors have demobilized. According to Pinzon, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) lure children into their ranks by promising "clothing, money and cell phones."
Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl who was arrested pursuant to Pakistan's blasphemy law for purportedly burning pages of the Quran, was freed from jail. The release came after police detained a Muslim cleric who allegedly framed the girl by placing torn pages from a Quran in her bag beside burned papers. The case, which draws attention to the nation's controversial blasphemy law, is especially divisive due to the fact that Masih is young and reportedly has Down's Syndrome.
Earlier this month, a 14-year-old suicide bomber killed at least six people near NATO's headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Haqqani network faction of the Taliban, a militant group tied to al-Qaeda and based in Pakistan, initiated the attack after being officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. The bombing was allegedly directed at a CIA office. All of the casualties were civilians, many of them street children selling gum and trinkets to nearby NATO soldiers.
The Burmese military released 42 child soldiers and has vowed to rid the armed forces of all other underage fighters within eighteen months, upholding an agreement it signed with the United Nations in June. Apart from government forces, several rebel and separatist armed groups in Burma use child soldiers as well.
A 12-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl have been beheaded in two separate incidents in Afghanistan. The boy was killed in southern Kandahar and the girl in the eastern Kapisa. Officials speculate that the Taliban orchestrated both incidents to intimidate the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and other government supporters. These murders follow the shooting of 17 children in southern Helmand last week and the beheading of a 16-year-old boy whom the Taliban accused of spying for the government.
Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone, is now UNICEF's first advocate for children affected by war and the author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Beah, who now works with and counsels forcibly recruited child soldiers in Central African Republic, says he was just 13 years old when forced to enlist but his mental transition was fast. In addition to forcing him to kill people with knives, his leaders made him "look at the person in the eye the whole time [he was] doing it."