The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.
Substantial progress was made in the peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). In February, the group announced that it would stop recruiting children under 17 years of age and intended to release children under 15 years of age from its ranks. At the invitation of the Government, my Special Representative twice visited Havana to engage with the negotiating parties and facilitators on according priority to the release and reintegration of all under-aged members of FARC-EP, stressing that any action should be based on the principle of the best interest of the children to ensure their protection and successful reintegration, guarantee their rights as victims and prevent rerecruitment by other armed actors. Early in 2016, FARC-EP made public a commitment to ending the recruitment of children under 18 years of age and discussions on the separation of children continued. A historic agreement on the peace agenda item relating to victims was announced on 15 December, foreseeing the creation of a comprehensive system of truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition for victims, which identified children as a vulnerable group.
Armed violence between FARC-EP and government forces reached its lowest level in 50 years and displacement decreased following the unilateral ceasefire declared by FARC-EP and the suspension of government aerial bombings. Nevertheless, activities by the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and post-demobilization armed groups continued to cause forced displacement.
The United Nations verified 289 cases of child recruitment and use by armed groups, the majority of which were documented following their separation and had been formerly associated with FARC-EP (182) and ELN (74). Cases were also attributed to the Ejército Popular de Liberación (1) and post-demobilization and other armed groups (32).
The killing of 12 children and maiming of 10, mainly as a result of landmines, were verified. With 31 of its 32 departments contaminated, landmines are a serious concern for the protection of children in Colombia. On 7 March, the Government and FARC-EP announced that they would carry out joint humanitarian demining initiatives (joint communiqué No. 52) and the parties began working on pilot projects.
The country task force on monitoring and reporting recorded 10 girls who were victims of sexual violence committed by the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (8), FARC-EP and an unidentified perpetrator. One additional case by a member of the Colombian military in 2012 was reported in 2015. The perpetrator was in detention awaiting trial at the time of writing (March 2016).
Eleven schools were damaged in crossfire and by landmines and explosive remnants of war. At least two teachers were killed by unidentified armed groups and allegations of threats against teachers by FARC-EP, ELN, the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia and Los Rastrojos were received. In addition, there were one case of military use of schools by FARC-EP and four cases by the Colombian military in violation of directives issued by the Ministry of Defence.
I welcome the decision of the Constitutional Court of 18 February 2016 that children recruited by all armed groups, including post-demobilization groups, are victims and have the right to reparations guaranteed in the Victims’ Act (No. 1448 of 2011). This is an important step forward that aims to guarantee equal treatment between children associated with guerrilla groups and those associated with post-demobilization groups, by ensuring that every recruited child will be treated primarily as a victim and receive adequate reintegration support.
There has been historic progress in Colombia and I encourage the Government to secure guarantees for non-repetition and pay particular attention to the specific protection needs of indigenous children, children of African descent and children in marginalized areas, so as to address and prevent violations against children.
Parties in Colombia
- Ejército de Liberación Nacionala
- Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — Ejército del Puebloa
*The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.
(a) Parties that recruit and use children.