Red Cross urges Colombia’s FARC to release child soldiers

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebel group to speed up the release of the child soldiers among their ranks, in an interview with El Tiempo.

“We must move from word to action in the case of the FARC children,” Christoph Harnisch said.

He added that “[he has] faith that the process will be done quickly” if the FARC cooperate.

The ICRC will fully support the process surrounding the release of the child soldiers, along with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The FARC were expected to begin turning over the child soldiers still in their ranks once the guerrilla group was fully demobilized on February 1 already, but due to issues with the readiness of the 26 transition zones, the process has been delayed.

Surrender of Colombia’s FARC child soldiers to begin February 1: govt

Once surrendered, guerrilla members under the age of 15 will be handed over to Colombia’s Family Welfare Agency, while those 16 and older will go through a transitional justice system that is currently passing through Congress.

This temporary justice system will pardon all minors not accused of human rights violations and allow lowered sentences for minors who did commit war crimes like homicide or rape.

The FARC has long been criticized for the use of minors in the war against the state they’ve been waging since 1964.

The use of child soldiers under 15 is a violation of international humanitarian law and one of the most common war crimes committed by the guerrillas in their half-a-century existence.

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