A special report by El Tiempo on Monday reveals that Colombia’s Justice and Peace Commission is currently investigating over 200 cases of minors recruited by paramilitary group the AUC, with reports of 2,700 cases in total.
The report states that the majority of the minors recruited by the paramilitary group in the 1990s were not arrested or questioned by authorities during the demobilization process, but that within the last few years an increasing number have been identified through investigation or come forward to give their testimonies.
According to the report, of the 236 cases known by the Prosecutor General’s Office, 150 incidents of child recruitment are attributed to AUC leader “El Aleman” in the north-western Uraba region of Colombia, an area known for its high level of paramilitary activity.
A new initiative led by Peace Commissioner Frank Pearl seeks to officially recognize the illegally recruited minors as victims.
“Locating them and protecting them is a priority,” said Pearl, who said that the concern is that the former child recruits will otherwise join new illegally armed groups that are emerging in Colombia.
Several of the ex-paramilitaries who have testified in these cases have also been vocal in campaigning against the involvement of minors in armed activity. One former paramilitary appealed publicly to potential paramilitary recruits, “I will say to all those wanting to go that this brings nothing good, that you will be mistreated.”