The UN Security Council should impose sanctions against government and rebel forces that persist in using child soldiers, Human Rights Watch said today. The Security Council is holding an open debate today on children and armed conflict.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has identified 58 governments and armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers in violation of international law. Of these, 14 parties to armed conflict are repeat violators that have been named in five consecutive reports from the secretary-general between 2002 and 2008. These forces include the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the FARC and ELN guerrillas in Colombia, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and the government forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar.
“Both government and rebel forces have recruited and used child soldiers year after year in defiance of both international law and repeated appeals from the Security Council,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocate for Human Rights Watch. “The Security Council must show that it’s serious about holding these forces accountable for their exploitation of children.”

In resolutions adopted in 2004 and 2005, the Security Council stated it would consider targeted measures, including arms embargoes, against parties to armed conflict that refused to end their use of child soldiers.

Nevertheless, the Security Council has imposed sanctions against only one individual for the use of child soldiers. In February 2006, its sanctions committee for Cote d’Ivoire imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on a former commander from Cote d’Ivoire, Martin Koukakou Fofie. The remaining violators remain untouched by the Security Council.

“The Security Council can’t afford to keep making empty threats,” said Becker. “Military commanders must know that if they continue recruiting children into their ranks, they will face sanctions or an arms embargo.”

The secretary-general’s most recent report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict was issued publicly on January 29. It lists 58 parties to armed conflict in 13 countries that are in violation of international standards prohibiting the use of children in armed conflict. Of the 58 parties, the 14 that have been listed in each of the secretary-general’s reports since 2002 are: Parti de libération du peuple hutu (Palipehutu)-Forces nationales pour la libération (FNL) (Burundi); Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) and Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) (Colombia); Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Front des nationalistes et integrationalistes (FNI), and the Mai Mai (Democratic Republic of Congo); the Myanmar national army (Tatmadaw Kyi) (Burma/Myanmar); Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (Nepal); Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and New People’s Army (NPA) (Philippines); the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (Sri Lanka); Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) (Sudan); and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) (Uganda).