NEW YORK, 31 January (Office of the Special Representative) — The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, has called on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to honour its commitments concerning the recruitment and deployment of children in armed conflict.

When I visited Colombia last year, I urged the FARC to refrain from all recruitment and use of children in hostilities. During a visit to the demilitarized zone in the south of country in June, I was assured by a senior FARC representative, Comandante Raul Reyes, that the rebel group would no longer accept or recruit young persons under 15. I urge the group to observe that commitment in full measure”, said Mr. Otunnu.

The Special Representative also urged FARC to take note of the new international consensus reached on 21 January in Geneva, to raise the age of recruitment and participation in armed conflict from 15 to 18. This agreement, the draft Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, raises the standard currently embodied in international humanitarian law, and will apply to armed forces and guerrilla groups in internal as well as international armed conflicts. I call upon the FARC to join in this international consensus and to adopt 18 as its own internal minimum age for recruitment and deployment”, Mr. Otunnu added.

The Special Representative also called upon the FARC to take positive steps towards the demobilization, social reintegration and rehabilitation of all FARC combatants under 15 still under arms. I urge the FARC to honour its commitment, made to me last June, that it would explore with the United Nations and relevant non-governmental organizations a process and framework for the eventual demobilization and rehabilitation of persons below 15 currently within its ranks”, Mr. Otunnu said.

The Special Representative s comments followed the publication of an interview in the Colombian press with the FARC Commander, Manuel Marulanda, in which he indicated that the group would not cease to recruit children before the end of the armed conflict in Colombia .