While Virginia Gamba, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) welcomed the decrease in abuses, she recalled that the reporting period – between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021 – coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, hampering the UN’s ability to confirm violations. .
“Children continue to be exploited and abused by parties to conflictShe said.
Girls were particularly affected by the grave violations, which is a third of all 330 children affected – greater than the average for the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda, which is 23 per cent.
forced to fight
The most notable abuse, affecting 220 children, was their recruitment and mistreatment by armed groups, including dissident FARC-EP, who were the main perpetrators, as well as the militant group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).
Also of concern are the links between displacement and grave abuses, particularly threats of child recruitment that have forced families into displacement.
The Special Representative called on armed groups to immediately cease the recruitment and use of children and to release those in their ranks, so that they can return to their communities and participate in reintegration programmes.
She also recalled that boys and girls associated with armed groups and forces should be considered victims in the first place.
Children under attack
Also, 118 children were verified killed and maimed during the reporting period, mainly due to gunshot injuries, anti-personnel landmines, unexploded ordnance, and air attacks.
Ms. Gamba stressed that Colombia remained one of the countries most affected by explosive remnants of war.
Armed groups called for a halt to the use of indiscriminate explosive devices and encouraged the government to expand demining and mine risk education activities throughout the country.
“in addition to, All parties must take all necessary measures to protect children during military operations and activitiesThe Special Representative added, in line with international humanitarian law, in particular the precautionary principle.
“Armed confrontations in areas where civilians and children are present must be planned and carried out in accordance with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions, and ensuring the protection of non-combatants.”
Other verified abuses included rape and sexual violence, which are generally not reported for fear of stigma, reprisals, and a lack of victim services.
During the reporting period, reintegration of children released from armed groups continued, with 323 children enrolled in specialized programmes, according to the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare.
Furthermore, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, a political office in the state’s executive branch, recognized 232 ex-combatants of the FARC-EP as children at the time of the laying down of arms and had received reintegration services.
The Special Representative welcomed progress in accountability by the government and transitional justice mechanisms, as well as the new policy measures adopted to enhance child protection and prevent abuse.
“Prevention measures, including a new policy to prevent the recruitment and use of children and sexual violence against children, as well as a national strategy focused on highlighting the risks of recruitment, are welcome steps in the right direction to strengthen the prevention of grave violations and strengthen the protection of boys and girls against them,” said Ms. Gamba.
“My office and our UN colleagues in the field remain ready to support the Colombian authorities in implementing these interdiction measures.”
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