A new study shows that the forced recruitment of children between six and fourteen years by illegal armed groups has skyrocketed, and that almost half of demobilized or captured guerrillas are under eighteen years of age.
The study, conducted by Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota, found that children were principally used as couriers of explosives and food, and are even subject to satisfying the sexual aberrations of the commanders of the FARC and the ELN.
Natalia Springer, Dean of the Faculty of International Relations, Political Science and Law at the uniiversity, said that “children and teenagers are used to carry the fallen in battle and are even forced to sleep beside their corpses,” reported newspaper El Universal.
Their presence in the ranks of the guerrillas is such that of the 10,732 demobilized and captured fighters, 47 per cent are under eighteen. The study shows that 65 per cent of the children are from the lower classes, in most cases kidnapped from indigenous or peasant communities.
“This is because they generally live outside of urban areas and closer to guerrilla and paramilitary groups,” Springer said.
The poor education level of the children is also disturbing: most are illiterate due to migration, forced displacement, and hunger, factors that exclude education as a viable option in rural areas.
Springer noted that the recruitment of minors was not unique to the guerrillas. “Paramilitary groups also commit this act.” There is no official data, but the study claims that one in four paramilitaries is underage.
Colombian authorities should take note of the fact that recruiters have reached urban centers and border areas, which means that recruitment by illegal armed groups is urbanizing in the country.
The study was discussed at a forum on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, in which a thousand soldiers participated, trained through a virtual classroom in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.