Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, vowed on Thursday to immediately and indefinitely ban the recruitment of child soldiers under 17.
Until now, the FARC have formally only allowed the incorporation of recruits who are 15 and older. However, international humanitarian law dictates that no minor can take part in military activity.
To comply with international humanitarian law, the FARC announced to “no longer incorporate, from today on, minors younger than 17 in the guerrilla ranks.”
The presumably ongoing recruitment of minors was a thorn in the flesh of human rights organizations and critics of the peace talks, who have been demanding the FARC to expand an earlier imposed unilateral ceasefire with abandoning the use of child soldiers and land mines.
In its announcement, the guerrillas called on the armed forces to also stop the use of children for intelligence work, and to end the illegal forced recruitment of young men in street raids.
The FARC has been engaged in peace talks with the government since November 2012 and are currently negotiating the last two of five points. If successful, a peace deal would end 50 years of violence between the FARC, the state and state-aligned paramilitary groups that formally disbanded between 2003 and 2006.