Colombia’s defense minister will have to explain Congress why four minors and no ELN commander died in a bombardment on a guerrilla camp in September.
Opposition Senator Ivan Cepeda on Thursday revealed that one 13-year-old boy and three 17-year-old girls died in a September 16 bombing that was supposed to kill ELN commander “Fabian.”
I will summon the defense minister, Diego Molano, to explain the new episode of bombing minors during a political control session in the Senate.
Senator Ivan Cepeda
Presidential hopeful Camilo Romero of the Green Alliance party demanded the resignation of Defense Minister Diego Molano.
The defense minister blamed the guerrillas for “forcibly recruiting minors and placing them within a military objective.”
The “surgical operation” that missed its target
Molano was already in a fix over the bombing because he falsely claimed that the commander of the ELN’s Western War Front died in the military operation.
Fabian wasn’t among the eight people who were killed in the bombardment on an alleged guerrilla camp in Litoral de San Juan, a municipality in the western Choco province.
Nevertheless, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios called the bombing a “surgical operation” of “high precision.”
The ELN commander was captured 11 days after the bombing and died in a Cali hospital on September 28.
The guerrillas confirmed the death of “Fabian,” but challenged Molano’s claim that the top commander was injured in the bombardment.
The debate on child soldiers
Molano defended the latest incident and denied that the deaths of the minors constituted a violation of International Humanitarian Law.
This is a questionable claim, mainly because the Geneva Convention’s protocol on the protection of children is open to interpretation, especially when it comes to child soldiers who are 15 and older.
This is complicated further by the fact that there is no evidence to indicate that the minors were child soldiers as they weren’t killed in combat, but bombed to death.
- Children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault. The Parties to the conflict shall provide them with the care and aid they require, whether because of their age or for any other reason.
- The Parties to the conflict shall take all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the Parties to the conflict shall endeavor to give priority to those who are oldest.
- If, in exceptional cases, despite the provisions of paragraph 2, children who have not attained the age of fifteen years take a direct part in hostilities and fall into the power of an adverse Party, they shall continue to benefit from the special protection accorded by this Article, whether or not they are prisoners of war.
- If arrested, detained or interned for reasons related to the armed conflict, children shall be held in quarters separate from the quarters of adults, except where families are accommodated as family units as provided in Article 75, paragraph 5.
- The death penalty for an offence related to the armed conflict shall not be executed on persons who had not attained the age of eighteen years at the time the offence was committed.
Molano’s attempt to lay the blame on the ELN is even more questionable as the guerrillas’ alleged recruitment of the 13-year-old boy in no way allows the military to also commit war crimes.