The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.
In 2014, peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — Ejercito del Pueblo (FARC-EP) continued in Havana. The conclusions on the three first items of the agenda, “Rural development”, “Political participation” and “Illicit drugs”, were shared publicly and discussions began on item five, “Victims”. The latter opened up the opportunity to raise specific concerns on child protection, in particular with regard to the recognition of the rights of child victims. At the request of the negotiating parties, the United Nations and the National University of Colombia organized regional and national forums to collect the views of victims and proposals. On those occasions, many national and international actors advocated for child protection concerns to be raised at the negotiating table. In December, the FARC-EP and the Government started talks about de-escalating the conflict, including issues related to child recruitment and a ceasefire. I commend the sustained efforts to put an end to the conflict and encourage all parties to take further concrete steps to protect children and guarantee lasting improvements for children’s rights, including under item three, “End of conflict”.
Despite the ongoing peace process, hostilities between FARC-EP, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and the Colombian Armed Forces continued and intensified in some parts of the country, causing displacement and often putting children at risk of recruitment and sexual violence. As at December 2014, there were some six million persons registered as internally displaced persons, approximately 35 per cent of whom were children. Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities were particularly affected. Violence committed by post-demobilization groups and other local armed groups was an important trigger of displacement, both in urban and rural areas. In addition, about 500,000 persons suffered from severe mobility restrictions to access basic services and assistance, as a result of the sharp increase in attacks against civilian infrastructure committed throughout 2014, mostly by ELN (52 per cent) and FARC-EP (22 per cent).
The United Nations verified 343 cases of recruitment and use of children by armed groups in 22 departments and in Bogotá. The Colombian Family Welfare Institute documented the separation of 277 children, the majority of whom had escaped from armed groups. A total of 198 children had been recruited by FARC-EP, 52 by ELN, and the remaining by post-demobilization groups and other armed groups. In addition, the Ombudsman Office issued at least 36 risk reports on recruitment in 20 departments.
On 12 February 2015, FARC-EP announced that it had raised the recruitment age to 17 years. While I take note of that positive development, I wish to recall that the Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Colombia in 1991 stipulates that a child means every human being below the age of 18, and that its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, ratified in 2005, prohibits armed groups from recruiting children under the age of 18 and provides that the State party should prevent such recruitment and use.
At least nine children were killed and 60 were maimed, mostly in landmine incidents. Children, predominantly girls, were also victims of sexual violence attributed to armed groups, including post-demobilization groups, and in some cases to members of national armed forces. Furthermore, sexual exploitation and abuse of girls by members of armed groups in mining zones continued. The United Nations received reports of the detention in Bolivar of three persons charged with selling girls for sexual purposes to armed groups and to mine workers.
There were 12 reported cases of schools damaged in crossfire, anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war, as well as 11 cases of military use by parties to the conflict. In May, the armed forces found 76 gas cylinders stored by FARC-EP in a school in Cauca, ready to be used in combat, thereby putting school children at risk. In addition, the presence of units of the armed forces near or in front of schools during class hours put school premises and children at risk. Within the reporting period, teachers were also subject to threats by FARC-EP, ELN, Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia/Los Urabeños and Los Rastrojos and three teachers were killed by unidentified armed groups.
Despite its prohibition by the National Child Protection Code (Art. 41, para. 29, of Law 1098 of 2006), the involvement of children in civic-military activities organized by the armed forces continued in several parts of the country. For example, in July, in Cauca, the armed forces carried out a civic -military activity, inviting more than 500 persons; the recreational activity for children was carried out by the armed forces psychological operations team. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has previously shared its concerns with regard to civic -military activities organized by the armed forces inside schools and in the community. In its recent report on prevention of the recruitment of children and adolescents, issued in December 2014, the Ombudsman Office also requested the Ministry of Defence, the armed forces and the police to refrain from carrying out the campaigns with children. I echo those concerns and call upon the armed forces to refrain from involving children in any military activities that may place them at risk of being targeted by armed groups.
Since 1999, at least 5,694 children have been separated from armed groups and benefitted from the Colombian Family Welfare Institute programme. With regard to protection and assistance provided to children separated from armed groups as stipulated in the National Child Protection Code and the Victims Law, all children, as victims, should be accorded equal protection, regardless of the group that recruited or used them. In some cases, however, children who had been separated from armed groups, mostly those associated with post-demobilization groups, were referred to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution without benefiting from the Institute’s programmes for protection and assistance.
Since 1999, there have been 193 convictions for child recruitment, including under the Justice and Peace Law of 2005 and by the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Attorney General, as well as by regional and local courts. In June, a new bill for the protection of victims of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict was approved. I welcome that major step, which was taken to harmonize the national legislation with international standards.
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.