FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 24, 2007
An Oral Intervention submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre to the 6th session of the Human Rights Council
ASIA: Children in armed conflict
Item 3: Children in armed conflict – Ms. Coomaraswamy, Under-Secretary-General, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Thank you Mr. President,
The ongoing use of child soldiers in many of Asia’s armed conflicts remains a serious concern for the Asian Legal Resource Centre. We welcome the work of the Special Representative on child soldiers in Sri Lanka and Nepal, but want to highlight another situation which also requires serious attention.
In India, both state and non-state actors field children in armed conflicts, which are taking place in at least 118 of India’s 604 districts, notably between armed Naxalite groups and India’s security forces, as well as between Hindu and Muslim groups. The conflicts result in large numbers of children being affected, including suffering psychological trauma, being orphaned, wounded or even killed, especially in India’s north-east and highly-militarised Manipur. Child soldiers are also used in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, by both the state and anti-state groups. Children are often recruited from tribal communities, as these are frequently located in conflict zones. In anti-state militias, girls are reportedly being used for sexual gratification.
The situation in Chhattisgarh State is of particular concern. State-sponsored militias usually recruit children by promising them future jobs with the State police department. The ALRC has submitted a detailed written statement on this situation to the Human Rights Council, including the case of five-year-old Saurabh, who works in a police station in Raipur as a boy police constable. He is not alone in this. A paramilitary group called the Salwa Judum also employs children as ‘Special Police Officers’. The Naxalites also have a child soldiers’ wing, called the Bal Mandal (or Child Forum).
Child soldiers’ living conditions are invariably very poor. They are often denied adequate food. Children are used as scouts and to test the land for anti-personnel mines and other forms of explosives, as they are seen as being more expendable than adults. Whenever child soldiers are killed in encounters, both sides disown them, blaming their deaths on crossfire accidents. Bodies have been mutilated in order to conceal their ages and identities.
In 2004, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the Indian government to ensure investigations into allegations of the use of child soldiers in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and India’s north-eastern states. We urge the Special Representative and Council to also concentrate on other conflict-affected areas in India. We urge the government of India to immediately halt the use of child soldiers and report regularly regarding the actions it has taken to prevent their use, including as part of the Universal Periodic Review.
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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.