A new report finds internally displaced children are at high risk of being recruited as child soldiers. The report, prepared for the U.N. Human Rights Council, describes the abuses and injustices experienced by hundreds of thousands of children caught in armed conflict. The United Nations estimates there are about 250,000 child soldiers around the world, and millions more that are victims of armed conflict.
Challenges outweigh positives
Despite this hapless situation, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict reports on a number of positive developments during the past year. Radhika Coomaraswamy said
the United Nations has reached agreement with rebel groups in Nepal, Sudan and Burundi for the release of thousands of child soldiers. She agreed, however, the challenges far outweigh these moments of progress.
"The recent incidents of mass rape in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) are mind boggling. So far, it is estimated that as many as 500 women and children have been sexually assaulted, one as young as seven-years old," said Coomaraswamy.
Trying children for war crimes
But she noted that not all crimes against children take place in the developing world. Coomaraswamy criticized the United States for trying a young terrorist suspect Omar Khadr, before the U.S. Military Commission in Guantanamo Bay. Khadr was 15 years old when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. Coomaraswamy said Khadr is the first person to be tried before the Commission on charges of war crimes.
"The international community has, without exception, refused to try children for war crimes," said Coomaraswamy. "All international prosecutors have used their discretion to ensure rehabilitation rather than prosecution for war crimes, which they may have committed as child soldiers; recruited by adults to fight causes they barely understand ... trying Omar Khadr for war crimes will set a precedent that may endanger the status of child soldiers all over the world."
Special needs of internally displaced childrenIn her report to the U.N. Council, Coomaraswamy highlights the special needs and concerns of internally displaced children all over the world.