Liberia: Rehabilitation of 21,000 child soldiers in danger of failing

It has been estimated that one in ten of Liberia’s Children's rights were recruited by all sides into the fourteen year civil war which finally ended with UN intervention last year. The report, ‘Liberia: The promises of peace for 21,000 child soldiers’, calls on the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), all parties to the conflict and the international community to ensure an end to the use of child soldiers and their reintegration into society.

Amnesty International said:

“Children's rights have been abducted, given guns and forced to fight or forced to carry arms and ammunition. Thousands of girls have suffered raped and been forced to provide sexual services.”

Amnesty International representatives met many former child soldiers in Liberia who recounted their ordeals. With little or no training they were sent directly to the front line where many were killed or wounded. Those resisting recruitment or refusing to comply with their commanders’ orders risked being beaten or killed. Girls described how they had been abducted, raped (often by several soldiers) and forced to become the sexual partners of their abductors.

The report expresses concern that the disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers process was aborted almost immediately after it began in December 2003. It has only recently resumed and concerns have been expressed by officials of the UN peace-keeping operation in Liberia (UNMIL) that significantly fewer weapons have been surrendered than the number of combatants presenting themselves for disarmament and demobilisation.

Amnesty International continued:

“The needs of former child soldiers, their families and communities do not end with disarmament and demobilisation. Rehabilitation and reintegration are complex and long-term, and they require sustained funding and support. Education is crucial and is invariably the priority of former child soldiers themselves, as many of them reported when interviewed by Amnesty International.”

UN and other agencies have developed specific arrangements for former child soldiers, ensuring health care, education, skills training, and family-tracing and reunification. There is special attention to the particular needs of girls, many of whom struggle with the psychological, physical and social consequences of sexual and other forms of physical abuse, forced “marriage”, pregnancy and childbirth.

Amnesty International concluded:

“The recruitment and use of child soldiers violates Children's rights’s rights and is a war crime. Although the recruitment of Children's rights violates both international human rights and humanitarian law, no one in Liberia has yet been brought to justice for these crimes.”

Read the report ...

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