Child soldiers were forcibly recruited by the government paramilitary Popular Defence Forces, and by northern and southern militias supported by the Sudanese government in the areas around Bentiu.260 Amnesty International received reports of youths picked up in Khartoum in December 2002, apparently for recruitment into the armed forces.261
Military activity renewed in January 2003, in the oil provinces of the Upper Nile (or Unity/Wahda Province), south of Bentiu. The attacks were carried out by the Sudanese army and southern militias allied to it against towns and villages, particularly those along a road being constructed by the Sudanese government between Bentiu and Adok. The attacks were preceded by forced recruitment of young men in Khartoum and of men and children in Bentiu, in late 2002. The Civilian Protection and Monitoring Team (CPMT), mandated to monitor attacks on civilians, also reported forced recruitment of children in Bentiu.262
In April 2003, The United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights expressed concern at the continued recruitment and use of children in the conflict in Sudan, in violation of international law.263 According to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan, “I received reports on the forced recruitment by government-allied militias of children and adolescents into the armed factions in Unity State which point to the appalling figure of 667 school pupils—sometimes as young as 9 years old—who have been forced into recruitment, representing 22.2 per cent of the total pupil population enrolled in primary schools in Unity State.”264 In May 2003, the government reportedly deployed additional soldiers, including children, to the new front in North Darfur.265 The government also continued to use military uniforms as the mandatory school uniform for all secondary school children.
The government of Sudan violated international standards of juvenile justice in its treatment of child soldiers. A special court in Darfur sentenced minors aged 14 and 15 to detention and death, respectively, for raiding a village.266 The UN Special Rapporteur reported that an unconfirmed number of children had been kept in custody for desertion in Bahr al-Ghazal and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.267 The Wali of Wau reportedly later released the children, stating that, as minors, they should not have been recruited in the first place.268
Non-state armed groups
Reports indicated continued abductions of children by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).269 Demobilization of children stagnated and UNICEF estimated that 7,000-8,000 children remained with the SPLA.270 Reports indicated that the re-recruitment and new recruitment of child soldiers occurred frequently.271
Tribal groups, not allied to government or armed opposition groups, also recruited small children to participate in raids against their neighbours.272
UNICEF, Save the Children and the SPLA continued to collaborate on the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers; however, demobilization stagnated due to waning political and administrative commitment from the SPLA.273
In February 2003 the Humanitarian Aid Commission, in partnership with UNICEF, held the first workshop focused on child soldier demobilization in government-controlled areas. An action plan was developed, including establishing baseline information on the number and nature of child soldiers, advocating for the inclusion of children’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) issues in the peace agreement and increased coordination.274 In June 2003, the armed forces created an internal task force on the demobilization of children.
In May 2003, following an 18-month study, the independent Rift Valley Institute released "Ten Thousand Names", a database of 11,105 people abducted between 1983 and 2002. According to the study, 58 per cent of the missing were children under 18 when abducted.
260 AI, "Sudan: preliminary conclusions of Amnesty International's mission", 31 January 2003.
261 AI, "Sudan: preliminary conclusions of Amnesty International's mission", 31 January 2003.
262 AI, “Sudan: Empty Promises? Human Rights violations in Government-controlled areas.” (AI INDEX: AFR 54/036/2003 , 16 July 2003.
263 Commission on Human Rights, Question of The Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms in any Part of The World, The situation of human rights in Sudan, E/CN.4/2003/L.35, 11 April 2003.
264 Statement by Mr. Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, UN Commission on Human Rights, April 2003.
265 Confidential information received from Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (Coalition) member in Sudan, 2 July 2003.
266 AI, 1 March 2003; Commission on Human Rights, Question of The Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any Part of The World, The situation of human rights in Sudan, E/CN.4/2003/L.35, 11 April 2003. AI Index: AFR 54/029/2003.
267 Commission on Human Rights, Question of The Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any Part of The World, The situation of human rights in Sudan, E/CN.4/2003/42, 6.1.03
268 Commission on Human Rights, Question of The Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any Part of The World, The situation of human rights in Sudan, E/CN.4/2003/42, 6.1.03.
269 IRIN, “Sudan: Monitoring body documents more violations”, 24 June 2003.
270 Confidential information received from Coalition member in Sudan, 2 July 2003.
271 Confidential information received from Coalition member in Sudan, 2 July 2003.
272 Information received from Coalition partner, June 2003.
273 Confidential information received from Coalition member in Sudan, 2 July 2003.
274 Atfal, Press Release, February 2003.