The Colombian FARC rebel group announced that it has handed over three girls under 15 who had been “hiding their age,” and are believed to be spies for the National Police, national media reported.
Ivan Marquez, representing Colombia’s largest rebel group in the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government in Cuba, read the press statement signed by Commander Alfonso Cano of the FARC’s Western Bloc on Sunday from Havana.
According to the statement, an investigation by the guerrillas showed that the three children from rural areas of the south-western state of Cauca are were discovered to be between the ages 15 and 16, and were “recruited along with seven other smaller units of the National Police” to infiltrate the FARC group and spy on the guerrillas.
“Their recruitment in the guerrilla [group] was precisely timed to get information to terminate or assist in the capture of guerrilla commanders, conduct sabotage, and find out the location of the group so it could be bombarded,” the statement continued.
“The girls had been prepared in basic elements of militias and combat intelligence,” reads the announcement, which went on to denounce the national police and Colombian armed forces for pushing minors to infiltrate the guerrilla group, using them in a “criminal, perverse, and systematic” way, and ” sending them as cannon fodder to fulfill tasks as risky as espionage activities.”
The FARC explained in the statement that the recruitment of young people under 15 was in “clear violation” of the group’s rules.
The statement also promised that the recruitment officers will face disciplinary actions for allowing the three minors to join the guerilla organization as combatants, in direct violation of the FARC’s recruitment procedures consistent with the Geneva Conventions and international treaties that establish the minimum age of 15 to join the armed forces.
Spokesperson for the Red Cross in Colombia, Patricia Rey, confirmed the return of the three children by the FARC and added that the international agency is continuing talks with the guerrillas regarding child recruitment in the country, Caracol Radio reported.
In March, the Group for Humanitarian Attention of Demobilized People (GAHD) and the Colombian Ministry of Defense released a report which stated that the FARC, along with the ELN guerrilla group had recruited 1,387 children over the past two years.
The report added that while sabotage and espionage are usually severely punished within the FARC disciplinary system, the children had not yet carried out any act of sabotage, and so they decided to “deliver” the children to the International Red Cross Committee so that they could “rebuild their lives somehow.”
On Sunday, delegations of the FARC and the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos closed the 24th cycle of conversations held in Cuba. This round of peace talks centered on the issue of illicit drugs and drug trafficking, the third of the six items on the agenda to negotiate an end 50 years of conflict.
- Farc entregan a la Cruz Roja a tres menores que estaban en sus filas (El Espectador)
- Las FARC entregan en La Habana a la Cruz Roja a tres menores que estaban en sus filas (El Mundo)
- Fuerzas Armadas de Colombia entrenan niños para infiltrar en la guerrilla (FARC Statement)
- Colombian armed forces train children to kill guerilla fighters (translated FARC statement)
- Tres menores desvinculados de las Farc fueron entregados a sus familiares (Caracol Radio)