The United Nations (UN) included Colombian guerrilla groups the FARC and ELN on their list of “most persistent violators of children in conflict” in an annual report on children and armed conflict released Friday.
The UN reported that the use of children by illegal armed groups in Colombia continued as an “extensive, systematic and habitual practise,” while the Colombian army also took advantage of children.
Both the FARC and the ELN used children “in hostilities, to recruit other children, to act as spies and gather intelligence, to serve as sex slaves, and to provide logistics support,” while “resistance or attempts to escape have resulted in torture or death.”
Many adolescent girls considered pregnancy as a way of avoiding recruitment, according to the report.
The UN noted that recruitment of children was also “practised by illegal armed groups formed from units of the demobilized AUC,” which “operate in a manner similar to that of the former paramilitary organizations … have a military structure and chain of command … and a political and ideological orientation similar to that of the former AUC.”
The report includes the Colombian armed forces who allegedly use children “for intelligence purposes … in violation of the Code on Children and Adolescents and directives of the Ministry of National Defense.”
Members of the army “had offered food as an incentive to boys and girls in exchange for information on the presence of illegal armed groups.”
Children have been threatened with death and killed by illegal armed groups under suspicion of being informants for the national army.
The armed forces also “continue to use children in civic-military activities and maintain specific programs for children,” which also goes against the Code on Children and Adolescents.
Indiscriminate clashes between illegal armed groups, and between these groups and the armed forces have also resulted in the deaths of children, as have landmines, which killed nine children between January and October 2009.
The report says that the Colombian government is “continuing to implement comprehensive policy” to protect vulnerable children, including efforts to reintegrate them back into their communities.