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11,000 children fight Colombia’s civil war

Latin America is slowly becoming one of the most dangerous areas of the world for poor children.
The number of minors involved in illegal military activities led by right wing paramilitaries and guerrilla groups in Colombia is rising and spreading to the nearby nations, UNICEF warned.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), militant groups are increasingly drafting children as soldiers across the region encouraged by lack of punishment for recruiting minors. All in all, the UN agency’s main concern is the situation in Colombia, where 11,000 children are fighting the 40-year long civil war between Marxist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and the military.

According to UNICEF officials, Colombian militants are recruiting children from nearby nations as Ecuador to fight for them. This turns the situation even more explosive as means the internationalization of the dreadful practice, which by other means, has also spread to other countries as Brazil and Peru during the past years.

UNICEF says that in countries like Brazil, Colombia and Peru, children are also drafted into private urban armies that defend drug traffickers. This became evident during the last deadly narcos’ uprising in a slum in Rio de Janeiro

Nils Kastberg, UNICEF's regional representative, said recruiting children has gone unpunished for a long time but soon could face consequences in the International Criminal Court. "If they're not prosecuted in their countries, they could face international legislation," he told reporters in Quito.

UNICEF estimates that there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide and is trying to campaign to draw the attention of the governments worldwide to stop this practice.

In the last UNICEF speech to the UN Security Council titled: children should not fight wars. The agency condemned the appalling violations of the rights of children in times of war, as called on Council members (including Russia) to work harder to end the use of children soldiers, the killing and maiming of children, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, and sexual violence against boys and girls.

“From Congo to Liberia, from Sri Lanka to Colombia, girls and boys continue to suffer the brutality of war,” said UNICEF Secretary General, Carol Bellamy. “When the lives and fundamental rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses”, he concluded.

Hernan Etchaleco

 


 

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