DRC: Alarming Numbers Of Children Flee Forced Recruitment And Sexual Violence By Nkunda’s Forces.

NEW YORK, 19 October 2007 – Ms. Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, voices her grave concern over the escalation of forced child recruitment and sexual violence by Laurent Nkunda's armed forces, the FDLR and allied militias in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"It is estimated hundreds of children are in the ranks of Nkunda forces and that thousands more are in imminent danger of recruitment. Over the last weeks, a large number of children have fled their villages following attempted recruitments in a number of schools in Masisi", states Ms. Coomaraswamy.

The Special Representative urges all armed groups to take necessary measures, according to their previous commitments, to ensure that no child is recruited or used and to demobilize all children currently associated with their groups. "The forced recruitment and use of children to serve in armed groups and forces as well as sexual violence during wartime are a breach of international law and constitute war crimes", she says.

Ms. Coomaraswamy also reiterates her call upon the Government of the DR Congo with assistance of MONUC forces, as necessary, to act upon ending the impunity of recalcitrant perpetrators of grave violations against children.

The Special Representative also calls upon the international community to assist the Government of DR Congo to strengthen its justice system, especially in cases of sexual violence and to fully support efforts on the ground for the reintegration of demobilized children into their communities. "Ensuring long reintegration is a crucial step to avoid their re-recruitment by armed groups and to ensure stability of the peace process", concludes Ms. Coomaraswamy.

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For further information, please contact:

Laurence Gerard, Liaison Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, UN, New York. Telephone: +1 212 963 0984.

E-mail: gerardl@un.org