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Remnants of Taliban among groups using child soldiers

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

UNITED NATIONS -- Remnants of the Taliban, conflict-ridden governments and rebel groups all use child soldiers, according to a U.N. report released Monday.

The report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan listed 23 parties that recruit and use child warriors in violation of internationally accepted standards.

"Those who violate the standards cannot do so with impunity," the report said, but stressed "more needs to be done" to stop the practice.

Rebel groups in Burundi, Congo, Liberia and Somalia, as well as factions in Afghanistan still recruit and use child warriors, according to the list, which was part of Annan's third report on children and armed conflict.

Current conflicts

The list was limited to conflicts currently on the Security Council's agenda, but it said children have also been recruited for combat in Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sudan, northern Uganda and Sri Lanka.

Demobilization and reintegration programs for child combatants are under way in recently ended conflicts in Angola, Kosovo, the Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, the report said.

Remnants of the hard-line Taliban and factions associated with the former Northern Alliance and in the south of the country were singled out for drawing children into war. Northern alliance troops were U.S. allies in the war on terror in Afghanistan.

"Following the fall of the Taliban government, there was significant demobilization of soldiers, including children," the report said. "However, recent reports indicate that some armed groups have resumed recruitment ... including underage boys."

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers last year estimated that more than 300,000 children were fighting as soldiers in 41 countries.

Frontline fighters

The London-based group said the children, including about 120,000 in African armies, were used as front-line fighters, minesweepers, spies, porters and sex slaves.

"We ... see this report as a solid foundation for acting to end this shameful practice," said coalition coordinator Casey Kelso. "The challenge to the Security Council is to demand accountability and take action to stop children being used as soldiers."

The report cited progress in protecting children during conflict, including three Security Council resolutions and two landmark international treaties setting age limits.

International law prohibits recruiting children under the age of 15, while several United Nations conventions condemn the practice of having anyone under 18 serve as a soldier.

"For the first time in an official report by the secretary-general, parties in conflict which continue to recruit and use child soldiers are named and listed," said Olara Otunnu, Annan's special representative for children and armed conflict.

U.N. officials and activists said they hoped the list would send an important message and help move the international community from words to action.


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