Detained Nepalese child soldiers - promises, promises...
On 16 December the United Nations, the Nepalese Government and Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) signed a plan which hopes to release 3,000 child soldiers who served in the Maoist army during the country’s decade-long civil war between 1996 and 2006.
The child soldiers remain in temporary camps three years after the peace treaty was signed, and still remain in such camps despite promises in July 2009 of 'immediate release'.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said at the ceremony in Kathmandu: 'Today, the minors who have spent the last three years in Maoist army cantonments with their lives on hold will finally be able to take the next step towards a more positive future.'
The UN news agency has said that the move 'will constitute the first step in deleting the UCPN-M from the list of parties which recruit and use children in conflict'.
Human rights campaigners welcome the news but fear that the implementation of the release plan will fall prey to hold-ups, like those that have kept the 3,000 children captive since July, despite the previous promise to release them immediately.
The UN news centre reports that the UN and the Nepalese Government will now assist in the orderly rehabilitation of the minors to ensure that they have the choice to participate in programmes that return them to a civilian environment and protect them from being recruited by violent or criminal gangs.
Calling it 'a historic step' in Nepal’s peace process, Mr. Ban Ki Moon’s Representative in the country Karin Landgren added: 'We hope that it will encourage other steps to unblock the current political stalemate', further proof that working on children's rights can encourage widespread political change.
Last month, Ms. Landgren reported little progress in overcoming the political impasse that emerged earlier this year when the President revoked the Army Chief’s dismissal by the then-Government and the ruling UCPN-M stepped down. It may have been this that is delaying justice for these children.
Members of the global AI children's network were preparing to campaign to call for the release of these children, but the UN's statement and ceremony have preceded their campainging efforts.
The move is welcomed as a 'good example' and may help unblock the political stalemate – let us ensure that the authorities involved do not use the political stalemate as an excuse to stall at this point. Let us avoid having a case of 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose'.
(Thanks to Michel Lakin at AI France's children's team for this information.)
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