Relief, a Significant One, for Nepal Children
Nepal now fares much better in children’s rights although Maoists and rebels continue to abuse minors, says a UN report.
Some 250,000 children globally are being recruited to fight in armed conflicts in violation of international law. In Nepal, with the end of active conflict, there has been a significant decrease in reports of grave violations of children’s rights, says the latest UN report on Children and Armed Conflict (2007). The document (see page 18 and 19) says but there are still several problems. Some of those joining the Maoist youth wing--YCL-- are under age 18. The period of unrest in the Terai region of southern Nepal saw the deaths of seven children. The report also points out 40 incidents of inappropriate use of schools by Maoists. There were over a thousand cases of children recruited by Maoists and its affiliates between October and December 2006. Many of those children ended up in Maoist Army cantonments, and over 300 were released without follow-up or official documentation after spending a few days at these sites. Since January 2007, four cases of recruitment by the Maoist Army have been documented. The report says there are srious concerns regarding the Government’s commitment to ending impunity and ensuring accountability for serious human rights violations
Developments in Nepal
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) in November 2006, as well as the separate Agreement on Monitoring and Management of Arms and Armies signed in December 2006, prohibit both parties from recruiting or using persons under age 18. They also set out phased plans for the registration of Maoist combatants and the discharge of persons born after 25 May 1988 from the Maoist Army. By January 2007, more than 31,000 Maoist personnel were cantoned and enumerated in 28 sites across the country. In July 2007, the second stage registration of Maoist combatants began and is still under way. The registration should lead to the automatic discharge of all those aged under 18 years at the time of the May 2006 ceasefire. The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), with the participation of UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has finalized the verification at three cantonment sites in cooperation with CPN-M. Verification at other cantonment sites continues. No official release of children has taken place to date. The Government is making the necessary preparations to release and rehabilitate combatants who are under age 18, as provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
With the end of active conflict, there has been a significant decrease in reports of grave violations of children’s rights. Reports of violations by the Government’s security forces have seen a particularly marked decrease, and large recruitment drives by CPN-M have come to an end. The Nepal country-level task force on monitoring and reporting documented over a thousand cases of children recruited by CPN-M and its affiliates between October and December 2006. Many of those children ended up in Maoist Army cantonments, and over 300 were released without follow-up or official documentation after spending a few days at these sites. Since January 2007, four cases of recruitment by the Maoist Army have been documented.
Two of the children involved have since left the Maoist Army. There were also no (page 18 of the report ends here) new cases of arrest under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance (TADO) reported. TADO expired at the end of September 2006 and was not renewed. Most children arrested under TADO during the conflict were released.
Militias linked to the CPN-M and the Nepal Army are no longer operational, but many personnel from the CPN-M, the Maoist Army and the militia have joined the Maoist Young Communist League (YCL), which was re-established in December 2006. Some of those joining YCL are under age 18. YCL carries out social programmes, as well as activities that parallel those of the security forces, aimed at enforcing laws or punishing social crimes. The presence of children in YCL and youth wings of other political parties is a cause for concern because of the deep politicization of children and youth during the conflict. The exposure or involvement of these children and youth in the violent demonstrations that are a feature of political action in Nepal is also disconcerting.
The period of unrest in the Terai region of southern Nepal has also resulted in the deaths of seven children during the reporting period. Four children were killed by the police force and one by CPN-M during demonstrations. In January 2007, a 15-year-old boy was killed by CPN-M at a roadblock established by the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) in Siraha district, eastern region. In a separate case, a 17-year-old girl associated with a CPN-M cultural group was one of 27 people killed in March 2007 during a confrontation between CPN-M and MPRF in Gaur and surrounding villages, Rautahat district. YCL claimed that the girl was a member of their organization. Many more children were injured during public rallies
between December 2006 and February 2007.
Although the use of schools for military purposes has decreased with the end of the conflict, 40 incidents of inappropriate use of schools were reported between October 2006 and June 2007, with 25 of the 40 occurring in the mid-western region. In 13 incidents, CPN-M used school grounds to train their cadres; in 22 incidents, schools were forced to accommodate political or cultural programmes by the CPN-M party and sister organizations such as YCL and the All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union-Revolutionary; and in at least six incidents, affecting over 200 schools, students were forced to participate in gatherings of CPN-M and its sister organizations. Schoolteachers have been abducted and assaulted, mostly in the Siraha and Saptari districts. Two such incidents were committed by CPN-M and YCL, and approximately six incidents were allegedly committed by two factions of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM), namely, JTMM-Goit and JTMM-Jwala Singh.
There are also serious concerns regarding the Government’s commitment to ending impunity and ensuring accountability for serious human rights violations. [The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who will visit Nepal in February, says the focus in Nepal is on getting the children out of cantonment sites; accountability will come later] An increasing number of reports indicate that the Nepal Police refuse to register or investigate serious crimes committed during and after the conflict. The Government believes that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as referred to in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, will address the issues of ending impunity, if and when established.
Posted by Editor on January 31, 2008 11:43 AM