The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/68/878–S/2014/339) issued on 15 May 2014.
Following the signing of the “General Agreement for the end of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace” in August 2012, ongoing talks between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) and the Government of Colombia achieved important progress on the issues of rural development and political participation. While the issue of children and armed conflict was not included in the agenda, both the third item, on “End of the conflict”, and the fifth item, on “Victims”, constitute opportunities to take into account child protection concerns. This is a positive development, I commend the ongoing efforts in the context of the peace talks and encourage the parties to continue to work in this direction towards a political solution. Furthermore, in the context of the peace talks, the Colombian Vice-President has specifically called on FARC-EP to respect minimum humanitarian standards, including by releasing children associated with them and by ending recruitment and use.
Hostilities between FARC-EP, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and the Colombian Armed Forces intensified in particular in the departments of Cauca, Choco, Nariño, Antioquia, Arauca, Santander and Putumayo. Extensive displacement triggered by such hostilities continued to increase children’s vulnerability, especially those of Afro-Colombian and indigenous origin. At least 110,000 people suffered from severe mobility restrictions in 2013, mostly as a result of hostilities but also confinement, contamination by explosive remnants of war, and security restrictions imposed by armed groups having an impact on access to humanitarian assistance and basic services. By the end of December, at least 24,862 people remained confined in 10 departments, with indigenous and Afro-Colombian people affected disproportionally.
Although the recruitment and use of children remained underreported in Colombia, the United Nations verified 81 cases of recruitment and use of children by armed groups in 25 departments and in Bogotá, including 58 children by
FARC-EP and 17 by ELN. In July 2013, eight cases of recruitment of indigenous children by FARC-EP were documented in the department of Cauca. In December, in Antioquia, a 15-year-old boy was recruited by FARC-EP during a declared ceasefire. Furthermore, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute documented
342 children (114 girls and 228 boys) separated from armed groups in 2013, marking a significant increase, compared with 264 children separated in 2012. Among these children, 261 had been recruited by FARC-EP, 65 by ELN, 15 by armed groups that emerged after the demobilization of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, and 1 by the Ejército Popular de Liberación.
At least 43 children were killed and 83 maimed during attacks by armed groups. Four children were killed and 10 maimed in clashes between armed groups or between the national armed forces and armed groups. For example, in August, a 14-year-old boy was killed in crossfire when FARC-EP attacked a police station in Putumayo. Furthermore, 11 children were killed and 28 maimed by anti-personnel mines or explosive remnants of war.
While underreported, girls and boys continued to be victims of sexual violence attributed to members of armed groups and in some cases by the national armed forces. Between January and October 2013, five cases of sexual violence against children by armed groups and 17 cases (two boys and 15 girls) by the national armed forces were referred to the National Institute of Forensics. Furthermore, information gathered by the United Nations and the Colombian Ombudsman Office indicate a pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse of girls and women in mining zones where armed groups are operating. Sexual violence also continued to be perpetrated by armed groups that emerged after the demobilization of the paramilitary groups. Since these groups are not considered actors of the armed conflict by the Government, and although children may also benefit from support by the State’s Family Defenders as victims of violence, they continue to face obstacles in exercising their rights as protected under the Victims Law.
During 2013, the United Nations identified 26 education-related incidents resulting in damage to schools or suspension of classes. For example, in April 2013, a school in Arauca used as shelter by FARC-EP was damaged during clashes between the armed group and the national armed forces. In February 2013, the national armed forces used a school for military purposes while fighting against FARC-EP in Putumayo, putting school premises and children at risk often resulting in the suspension of classes. In November, during an armed lockdown by FARC-EP in Antioquia, at least six schools were closed, affecting approximately 3,000 children. Teachers continued to be targeted, with five teachers reportedly killed by unidentified armed groups and others subject to threats by armed groups in six different departments. The involvement of children in several civic-military activities by the Ministry of Defense and the national armed forces, prohibited by the Child Protection Code (Law 1098 of 2006), was reported in several departments.
The Government of Colombia has voluntarily accepted the monitoring and reporting mechanism pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) on the condition that any dialogue between the United Nations and armed groups would take place with its consent. Constructive dialogue between the Government and the United Nations system, both at the political and technical levels, is ongoing. The establishment and implementation of policies to protect children from recruitment such as the Presidential Human Rights Programme is an encouraging development to ensure the protection of children affected by the conflict in Colombia.
A total of 342 children who had been separated from armed groups were referred to the Colombian Family Welfare Institute. Some children, in particular those separated from the armed groups formed after the demobilization of paramilitary organizations, were referred to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution in accordance with the Law on Childhood and Adolescence (8 November 2006) (Codigo de la Infancia y Adolescencia, Ley 1098). However, the children continued to face difficulties in benefitting from the same rights and protection as children recruited by other armed groups. All children, as victims, should be accorded the same benefits and protection, regardless of the group that recruited or used them.
The number of prosecutions for violations against children and information on cases taken up by the Office of the Attorney General remained limited. While the Colombian Family Welfare Institute attended to at least 5,417 children separated since 1999 from armed groups, to date there have been 69 convictions for child recruitment, including 5 under the Justice and Peace Law of 2005 (of which 2 in 2013), and 64 by the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Attorney General (of which 14 in 2013). Additionally, there have been convictions by regional offices of the Attorney General. Despite such efforts, children continued to face difficulties in gaining access to justice, and impunity for violations against children remains a concern.
Parties in Colombia
- Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) (a)
- Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) (a)
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.