Colombia’s Ombudsman said Wednesday there were 46 cases of child recruitment on the behalf of illegal armed groups during 2013, adding to the total of 4,935 cases since 1999.
Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora Gomez asked Colombia’s illegal armed groups to respect the “principles of protection and distinction” enveloped by International Humanitarian Law. He also asked said groups to return the victims to their families, reported newspaper El Espectador.
Furthermore, Gomez stressed that the prevention of child reqruitment required the active participation of the Colombian state. That is, to sanction those responsible for the acts, the relocation of threatened persons to secure sites and to guarantee access to the schooling system.
According to information collected by the Ombudsman, the actors most responsible for child recruitment were left-wing rebel groups FARC and ELN, the neo-paramilitary organizations Los Urabeños and Libertadores de Vichada, in addition to the drug trafficking group Los Rastrojos.
The areas with the highest risk of child recruitment were the northwestern Antioquia department, the central Meta department and the southern Caqueta department. Out of said departments, Antioquia suffered from the gravest situation with 572 cases since 1999, reported newspaper El Colombiano.
According to Colombia’s Institute for Family Wellbeing (ICBF), there were 4,935 registrered cases of child recruitment between 1999 and 2012.