Public report: Children and adolescents from Colombia hope to rebuild the mountain under the sun (Red Hand Day 2015)
This 12th of February, the international Red Hand Day, which promotes the prevention of involvement in the armed conflict and protection of children’s and adolescent’s rights (CAR), COALICO greets the historical pronouncement by the FARC-EP with which they expressed their promise ”not to incorporate minors under 17 in the ranks of the guerrilla”.
Although the public commitment made by the FARC is a step towards protection of children’s rights, COALICO reiterates the call for negotiators of the Table Talks La Habana to include the children’s situation officially and priority. These children have been victims of the armed conflict and of violation like recruitment and utilization, death and mutilation, sexual violence, forced displacement, impossibility to live their rights of education, of access to health care, of decent housing, of a protected family and impossibility to responsibly practice their rights. It depends precisely on these aspects if we will achieve conditions for a stable and lasting peace.
Despite the announcement made today by the spokespersons of the FARC-EP, remains a concern for COALICO: Children are not included in the document entitled: “Fifth proposal on full recognition of the right of the victims of the armed conflict” as well as the lag of leadership and an answer of the Colombian Government in contradiction with the statement during the first presidential period, which said that a part of the key to peace would be the cessation of recruitment and utilization of children in the armed conflict. Therefore we demand that the children’s situation will be a formal item in the agenda and the agreements of the Table Talks and will not only be relized through unilateral pronouncements of isolated parts.
COALICO takes this opportunity to greet and to remind the country, that the committee of children’s rights of the United States issued its concluding observations on the combined fifth and fourth periodical reports of Colombia, which were adopted by the Committee on its sixtieth session (12th to 30th January 2015) upon completion of the review about compliance and progress of our State in relation to the convention about children’s rights and in relation to the update of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in the armed conflict and the Optional Protocol on the sale, the prostitution and the use of children in pornography.
The Observations indicate a special concern about the children and adolescents of the armed conflict, the ongoing violation of their rights, which effects mainly children from rural, indigenous, afro-descendant and marginalized urban areas. In paragraph 65 the committee notes, that they are concerned about:
(a) The ongoing recruitment of children by non-state armed groups
(b) The recruitment of children by BACRIM and reports that some of these children are prosecuted as criminals by the State party and not treated as victims
(c) That recruited girls continue to be victims of sexual violence repeatedly and systematically with acts such as rape, sexual slavery and exploitation, forced pregnancy and abortion and transmission of STDs
(d) That the installation of explosive devices by non -state armed groups continues and the reduction of the budget allocated to programs against landmines, unexploded munition and improvised explosive devices (MAP / MUSE / AEI )
(e) The numerous violations of the rights of children allegedly committed by the police and armed forces, in particular sexual violence and the continued use of children as part of intelligence activities
(f) The low number of prosecutions for crimes under the Optional Protocol
(g) The insufficient coordination among institutions dealing with children who are victims of recruitment
Meanwhile the Children and Armed Conflict Observatory (ONCA ) of COALICO registered the following in relation to the armed conflict for the year 2014:
- 125 events against the CAR about utilization or recruitment by armed non-state actors
- 80 violations and infractions of the right to live and the integrity of the CAR, 39 of these were homicides, 31 personal injuries, 8 mutilations (most of them caused by anti-personal mines) and 2 cases of torture. The municipalities in which 45% of these events happened are: Medellín (Antioquia ), Cali and Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca ), Barranquilla, ( Atlantic), Miranda (Cauca ) and Tumaco (Nariño )
- 14 violations and infractions of the right of sexual liberty against the CAR, in the departments Cundinamarca, Antioquia y Meta were 2 cases in each of these departments identified and in Cauca, Putumayo, Nariño, Quindío, Bolívar, Caquetá y Bogotá was one case in each department registered
- 17 violations and infraction of the personal liberty, 5 of these were about kidnapping, 2 about taking of a hostage, 4 cases about arbitrary detention, 4 about direct threats and 2 cases about forced disappearance
- 174 attacks and occupation of schools, hospitals and other civilian objects, of which 8 correspond to attacks and occupation of health institutions, 28 attacks and occupation of other civilian objects like houses, parks, churches and others and 138 attacks on educational institutions and educative communities
- 80 cases of blocking basic supplies that affect at least 124 CAR
- 154 events associated with forced displacement, of which 140 correspond to cases of forced displacement and 14 to other situations that demonstrate the impact on other rights due to forced displacement.
Further information is accessible to the public in the Boletín de Monitereo No. 13 of the Observatory Children and the Armed Conflict de COALICO (ONCA). December, 2014. To view: Click here
So far in 2015, the violations of the CAR paradoxically are ongoing. While the Committee issued the concluding observations about children’s rights and adolescence in Colombia a cold-blooded and point blank murder of the siblings Deinner, Laura Jimena, Juliana and Samuel Vanegas Grimaldo at the age of 4 to 17 years in a rural area of Florencia in the department of Caquetá shook the country on the same day. Because of this atrocious fact COALICO speaks up and requests the Colombian State to take all the measures to prevent impunity for the perpetrators who violated the rights of the CAR in this case.
Facing the State’s response to the CAR which have been affected by the armed conflict, COALICO draws attention to the subparagraph e) of the paragraph 11 of the Observations of the committee, when declared: “It’s not clear how the State Party insures the coordination between the SNBF (Sistema Nacional de Bienestar Familiar) and the system of care and reinstatement of the victims to effectively guarantee rights and the reparation of the child victims of the conflict.”. This is based on a situation which was registered during the first week of February this year, when an adolescent, who has been the victim of recruitment and was attended by the specialized care program for demobilized children from the SNBF, was graduated from the program when he just turned 18 without clarity about his transit to the hotline of the Colombian Agency for Reintegration (ACR). So that he has been totally defenseless without guarantee of decent housing and survival which would keep him in the state of rehabilitation and would not let him be exposed to the risk of returning to armed confrontation.
Besides the above, we also solicit the society, the State and the international community not to forget, that even in times of dialogues and announcements about ceasefire of both sides of the armed actors, every day the rights of hundreds of the children and adolescents are being affected through the actions committed by the post-demobilization groups of the paramilitaries, which are present throughout the country.
Therefore we join the calls that the committee requested from the Colombian State in the following terms:
(a) To evaluate and adjust the CONPES 3673 (201) about the prevention of recruitment of children and ensure adequate resources, strengthen institutions and mechanisms of coordination, particularly in areas that are most affected by the armed conflict.
(b) To strengthen information and early warning systems related to children in armed conflicts in order to provide prompt, institutional, adequate and efficient responses. These responses have to include the protection of children and families in cases of threats or risks as well as the possibility of transferring them to safe places.
(c) To carry out all efforts to ensure demobilization and effective reintegration of recruited children or children who were used in hostilities.
(d) To strengthen measures to ensure that child victims of crimes committed under the Optional Protocol are provided prompt and culturally sensitive help and to ensure that they can adapt at the conditions to enable their physical and psychological recovery as well as social reintegration. Also the needs of recruited girls or girls used in hostilities, particularly victims of sexual violence should be taken into consideration.
(e) An urgent and thorough investigation of the crimes referred to the Optional Protocol, including the crimes related to sexual violence and those allegedly committed by the police and armed force. Prosecuting alleged perpetrators, punishing offenders appropriately and making adequate reparation to the victims and their families as well as providing adequate legal assistance to child victims.
(f) To enforce existing institutional policies aimed at protecting the rights of children, particularly those that aim at suspension of all civil-military activities involving children, which should include those made by the police and prohibiting the use of children in military intelligence activities.
(g) To allocate sufficient resources for education about the risk of mines and programs of victim care.
(h) To evaluate the imparted training to the armed forces, the police and relevant professional groups dealing with child victims of crimes committed under the Optional Protocol. To improve quality and quantity, and ensure gender sensitivity based on the lessons learned.
(i) In accordance to the mandate of the Constitutional Court ( C -781, 2012), which considers all recruited children and / or children used by BACRIM as victims as well as all recruited children and / or children used in hostilities by other non-state armed groups. To ensure that they are included in the ICBF program for demobilized children and that they receive adequate reparation.
(j) To continue to ensure that opinions, interests and needs of children are included in the current peace process.
This outlook calls upon the Table Talks Havana not to miss the opportunity to expressly address the situation of children and adolescents affected by confrontation with the armed conflict and to define basic agreements that are expected to emerge from the negotiations. Especially as this aspect was first considered in November 2014 during the closing of the fourth meeting with victims in Havana, during that the FARC-EP proposed the adoption of a Special Humanitarian Agreement, as provided in the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, where one of the elements, which should be considered, is the “problem of the presence of minors in the conflict” as it was said literally on that occasion.
Finally COALICO demands that children and adolescents are recognized in process of dialogue to terminate the conflict and further to give responses to their needs like the committee suggested. We also call on the Colombian State to find real solutions for the children and adolescents who continue to suffer from the inclemency of the violence that they experience in the country.
Coalition Against the Linking of Children and Adolescents to the Armed Conflict in Colombia (COALICO):
– Center of Development and Psychological Counselling l – TALLER DE VIDA
– Christian Mennonite Center for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action – JUSTAPAZ
– Association Defense for Children International – DNI COLOMBIA
– Benposta Nación de Muchach@s – Colombia
– Corporation Casa Amazonía – COCA
– Corporation Vínculos
– Foundation Creciendo Unidos -FCU
– Jesuit Refugee Service – SJR
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