UN hails draft law against child soldiers’ recruitment
KABUL (Pajhwok): Senior United Nations officials in Afghanistan on Wednesday welcomed the passing of legislation earlier this week by the Wolesi Jirga to criminalise underage recruitment in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as a significant step forward in protecting the rights of children.
“The United Nations welcomes the Lower House’s decision to pass legislation criminalising the recruitment of child soldiers in ANSF,” said Ján Kubiš, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
He expected expect the Upper House would move it forward and the signature of President Ashraf Ghani would manifest his commitments to uphold human rights. The draft law’s approval would be recognition of children being the most vulnerable Afghans who deserved protection, he added.
The passing of the legislation follows the government’s endorsement earlier this year of a 15-point road map to implement an action plan signed with the UN in 2011 to end the recruitment of Afghans under 18 years into the country’s security forces.
The measures outlined in the road map include the criminalisation of the recruitment and use of children by security forces; the development of a policy to ensure that children arrested on national security charges are treated in line with international juvenile justice standards; and improved age-verification mechanisms.
The road map was supported by UNAMA and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in their roles as co-chairs of the UN-led Country Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict.
“The recruitment of children has been a real concern in Afghanistan, and should be completely stopped, immediately and without delay,” said UNAMA’s Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon, who is also Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“This law should advance the road map for the prevention of underage recruitment into armed forces and, most importantly, should advance the protection of children’s rights in Afghanistan,” Ms. Gagnon added. “The United Nations also urges all armed groups to halt the recruitment of children, as required under international law.”
A recently released report on children and armed conflict from the world body’s chief, Ban Ki-moon, highlighted issues regarding child recruitment in Afghanistan. According to the report, in 2013 alone, nearly 100 boys – some as young as eight years-old – were recruited into armed forces, including in state security.
Since 1998, more than 100,000 children associated with armed forces or armed groups have received UNICEF assistance to return to school and receive education and vocational training, with the ultimate goal of providing the children with future opportunities for income-generating work.
Congratulating the Government on moving the legislation forward, UNICEF’s Officiating Representative in Afghanistan, Lakshmi Narayan Balaji, pledged continued support to the government for the full implementation of the action plan to prevent and end underage recruitment.
“UNICEF is committed to jointly working with the Government on long-term capacity-building of security personnel to ensure that they have adequate knowledge and that child-friendly policing methods exist for protection of children who come in contact with the justice system,” he said.
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