Victoria Garcia / US Department of State – 2005-05-02 00:23:28
WASHINGTON (April 14, 2004) — On Feb. 25, 2004, the US State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights. The reports detail information on 196 countries compiled by Foreign Service Officers abroad, domestic and international human rights groups, academics, activists, jurists and journalists that work to recount human rights conditions around the globe. These annual reports point “to the areas of progress and draw attention to new and continuing challenges” in the human rights realm, and are to be “used as a resource for shaping policy, conducting diplomacy and making assistance, training and other resource allocations.”
While each report has traditionally assessed internationally recognized human rights as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including respect for the integrity of the person, civil liberties, political rights, and workers rights, the report also includes a section on the use of child soldiers.
In accordance with the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of FY 03, the human rights reports include a description of the “nature and extent of the compulsory recruitment and conscription of individuals under the age of 18” by all armed groups in every country, and what steps have been taken by the governments of the respective countries to eliminate such practices. The reports must also list which countries have ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which:
* Requires states to “take all feasible measures” to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 years do not participate in hostilities;
* Prohibits the conscription of anyone under the age of 18 into the armed forces;
* Requires states to raise the age of voluntary recruitment from 15 and to deposit a binding declaration of the minimum age for recruitment into its armed forces; and
* Prohibits the recruitment or use in hostilities of children under the age of 18 by rebel or other non-governmental armed groups, and requires states to criminalize such practices.
This year’s reports highlight 28 countries currently using child soldiers; among the worst violators are Burma, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
Below are excerpts from the 2003 State Department Human Rights Reports relating to the use of children in armed conflict.
For excerpts from the 2002 State Department Human Rights Reports relating to the use of children in armed conflict please click here.
[C]redible reports [reveal] that both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance used child soldiers [in 2003]. In previous years, Northern Alliance officials publicly said that their soldiers must be at least 18 years of age, but press sources reported that preteen soldiers were used in Northern Alliance forces. In May , Afghan President Hamad Karzai issued a decree that prohibited the recruitment of children and young persons under the age of 22 to the Afghan National Army.
All 35 ex-UNITA [União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola] gathering areas set up under the April 2002 ceasefire to voluntarily quarter demobilized UNITA troops were closed by June . According to government figures, a total of 377,511 persons were housed in the camps, including 91,693 demobilized soldiers and 285,818 dependents. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that camps were forcibly emptied; however, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the demobilization process for not adequately including women and child soldiers.
Some children reportedly continued to be recruited into the armed forces as a result of the absence of civil registration and the inability to prove dates of birth [in 2003]. According to Ministry of Justice, 2,182,902 children were registered between August 2001 and July ; however, at least 1 million more remained unregistered. HRW criticized the government for excluding children who served as soldiers and “wives” during the war from the demobilization process, and for not providing children adequate reintegration assistance and other benefits promised to former soldiers.
Between January and October , the [United Nations Children’s Fund]-supported National Family Tracing and Reunification Program successfully reunited 1,479 separated children with their families and trained 539 tracing activists in 10 provinces.
Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that the government or UNITA forcibly recruited persons for military service.
In violation of international humanitarian law, both Army and insurgent units used forced conscription, including conscription of children.
According to a 2002 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, government troops conscripted children as young as the age of 11.
Active insurgent groups included the Chin National Front, the Naga National Council, the Arakan-Rohingya Solidarity Organization (ARNO), the SSA-South [Shan State Army], and the KNU [Karen National Union] (including its affiliate the Karen National Liberation Army). UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], AI [Amnesty International], and HRW reported that insurgent groups as well as government forces recruited child soldiers.
The official age of enlistment in the ostensibly all-volunteer Army is 18 years. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that the authorities rounded up orphans and street children in Rangoon and other cities and forced them into military service. During , diplomatic representatives received a new report that in October 2002 an M.P.-Elect [Member of Parliament-Elect] from Karen State filed a report to the police that a 15-year-old boy was missing minutes after arriving in Rangoon railway station.
The Rangoon police suggested looking for him at the Hmawby Army recruit camp near Rangoon, where the M.P.-Elect found three sets of parents also looking for their children. Six boys were brought forward and the M.P.-Elect was able to identify and retrieve the boy. In October , diplomats received a credible report that there were several thousand child soldiers in the Burmese Army.
The ICFTU [International Confederation of Free Trade Unions] reported that, on a daily basis, the government forced hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, and even the elderly to work against their will, generally without payment. Work ranged from road and railway construction and repair to serving as military porters to farming fields confiscated by the military. Military porters could be starved, beaten or killed if they fell behind or tried to escape.
[Burmese] law does not specifically prohibit bonded labor by children; while there are no reports of bonded labor, children were subjected to forced labor. The authorities reportedly rounded up teenage children in Rangoon and Mandalay and forced them into porterage or military service. In June , the ICFTU reported that the government most often recruited children when adults were not available in sufficient numbers. In rural areas, if the father in a family was either away or had been killed, then the mother had to send a child to respond to a government order for a forced labor contribution. The government has not ratified ILO [International Labor Organization] Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor.
In November 2002, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that numerous children between 14 and 16 years of age had been kidnapped and were serving as soldiers with the CNDD/FDD [Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces de defense pour la democratie].
Under [Burundian] law, the country’s minimum age for military recruitment is 16, although the transitional government has stated that no one under 18 was recruited. However, according to UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], [since 1993] approximately 14,000 children had carried, or were still carrying, arms in the ranks of government forces or armed opposition groups. During the year, there continued to be reports that security forces, including the FAB [Burundi Armed Forces], and rebel groups recruited, pressured, and employed child soldiers. Local NGOs reported that an estimated 4,500 children were serving as soldiers in the FAB, 2,000 in the Guardians of Peace, and 3,500 serving [in] rebel groups.
On Oct. 31, , UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported that both security forces and rebel groups continued to recruit or use children. Most of the children serving in the Army were not in combat units, although some were, according to the head of the Army’s demobilization program.
There were also reports that soldiers guarding refugee camps and military bases forced children to perform labor. HRW reported that security forces routinely enlisted children as young as 12 years old as “doriya,” or “ear agents,” to work for the transitional government as intelligence gatherers, looters, lookouts, scouts and porters.
HRW reported that the Guardians of the Peace recruited and armed children to provide a quasi-police presence in public places such as markets; some of these children reportedly were sent to the frontlines.
Children voluntarily attached themselves to military units. Most of these children were orphans or IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] who had no independent means of survival. Some observers believed the FAB allowed these children to perform menial tasks such as cooking in Army encampments. Some children joined the military voluntarily by using fraudulent documents such as birth certificates.
According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, there continued to be reports that a CNDD-FDD faction with bases in eastern DRC forcibly recruited children to be combatants, looters, porters, and laborers; some of the children were as young as 8 years old. There were also reports of rebel forces that abducted primary school-age children and teachers for forced labor, both as combatants and as camp followers or servants. These reported abductions occurred in the provinces of Makamba, Gitega, Muyinga and Ruyigi.
In July , several girls and boys aged 10 to 14 years old fought as soldiers in an FNL [Forces nationales de liberation] attack on Gitoke, a neighborhood in Bujumbura, according to AI [Amnesty International]. At the conclusion of the battle, residents found the bodies of between 10 and 20 children among the dead.
The transitional government worked to demobilize and protect children serving in the armed forces and rebel groups during . For example, in March , the transitional government established a Permanent Committee for the Execution of Demobilization and Reintegration of Child Soldiers to accommodate and demobilize children in the service of rebel groups and the Army. The government demobilization program was formally launched in October ; however, at year’s end, no child soldiers had formally been demobilized under the government program.
By year’s end, the program had begun verifying lists of child soldiers and had identified partner NGOs and church groups to sensitize communities and ensure that children would be rehabilitated. UNICEF described the transitional government as “very cooperative” on working to eliminate the use of children in or around military or rebel camps.
There was a lack of reliable and comprehensive data on trafficking during . However, according to a June  interview conducted by HRW in Bujumbura, Guardians of the Peace were forced into military trucks and taken away to participate in military operations. In addition, according to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, CNDD-FDD rebels abducted children from refugee camps and schools in Tanzania and subsequently trafficked them across the Tanzania border into the country; the CNDD-FDD also reportedly trafficked children to bases in the DRC to be trained for combat and to rest after combat operations. According to AI, these children were forced to carry supplies, fetch water, cook, march in front of troop columns, and serve as combatants.
In addition, the trafficking of child soldiers by both the CNDD-FDD and the FNL within the country was a problem. The transitional government has acknowledged the need to address this practice.
The Ministry of Reinsertion, Repatriation, and Reintegration and the Ministry of Institutional Reform, Human Rights, and Parliamentary Relations were responsible for combating trafficking. The transitional government supported public awareness campaigns and programs to prevent trafficking, and by [the end of 2003], it had instituted a program for the demobilization of child soldiers.
Central African Republic
During the [6-month] rebellion that culminated in the March  coup, soldiers loyal to the Patassé government and Gen. [François] Bozizé’s rebel troops committed serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including widespread looting, rape, disappearances, inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment, and the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.
There were approximately 5,000 street children between the ages of 5 and 18 residing in Bangui.
On Feb. 5, , many street children were enrolled in security forces to fight against Bozizé’s rebellion. Capt. Paul Barril, French mercenary and special advisor to President [Ange-Félix] Patassé, recruited teenagers aged 12 to 15 for military activities on the battlefield, according to various sources. After a few days of military training, they received $100 and were sent to reinforce the pro-government MLC [Congolese Liberation Movement] rebels in Damara and Bossembele. Many of them were killed.
Although the use of child soldiers was prohibited by [Chadian] law, [the United Nations Children’s Fund] estimated that there were approximately 600 child soldiers in [Chad], within both the government military service and rebel groups. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of the military conscripting children [in 2003].
Although paramilitaries continued to recruit minors, paramilitary groups turned over at least 75 minors to government authorities during the year, either as signs of good faith or as conditions of formal demobilization. For example, on June 26, , paramilitaries operating in Meta and Vichada departments turned over 15 child soldiers to government authorities. In conjunction with the BCN’s [Cacique Nutibara Bloc] formal demobilization in Medellin, 48 child soldiers were demobilized separately and turned over to government social services.
The country’s two largest left-wing guerrilla organizations are the 13,500 member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a terrorist organization, and the 3,500 member National Liberation Army (ELN), also a terrorist organization. The FARC and ELN systematically violated international humanitarian law by committing unlawful killings, kidnapping civilians and military personnel, torturing captives, and recruiting child soldiers.
Since 1999, persons under 18 are prohibited from serving in the public security forces. However, both paramilitaries and guerrillas [continue to use] child soldiers. In September , HRW [Human Rights Watch] released a comprehensive study on child soldiers in Colombia that reported that approximately 11,000 children were members of illegal armed groups; UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] reported that the number was as high as 14,000. Both paramilitaries and guerrillas forcibly recruited minors as combatants. For example, in April , a captured child soldier from the FARC described how he was coerced into joining the guerrillas by a FARC recruiter who gave him food for his family and later insisted that the teenager either repay him or join the insurgency.
Paramilitary groups released some child soldiers as a sign of good faith in anticipation of demobilization negotiations with the Government. On June 27, , security forces in Sucre department captured retired Army Sgt. Omer Eligio Gonzalez, who was in charge of recruiting minors for paramilitaries.
Although many minors were forcibly recruited, a 2002 study by UNICEF found that 83 percent of child soldiers volunteered. Limited educational and economic opportunities and a desire for acceptance and camaraderie increased the appeal of service in armed groups. Nevertheless, many children found membership in guerrilla and paramilitary organizations difficult, and the MOD [Ministry of Defense] reported an increase in the number of minors deserting illegal armed groups. As of Oct. 29, , at least 301 children had surrendered to state security forces during the year. FARC child deserters reported that local guerrilla commanders threatened to kill their families should they desert or attempt to do so. A reinsertion program for former child soldiers administered by the ICBF [Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar] provided assistance to 725 children during .
Congo, Democratic Republic of
The government supplied and coordinated operations with Mai Mai and other militia groups, who committed numerous, serious abuses, including killings, rape, torture, the kidnapping of civilians, and the recruitment of children as combatants.
The forcible recruitment of soldiers, including children, continued to be a serious problem [in 2003]. Combatants abducted women and children and forced them to perform labor, military services and sexual services.
In areas not under central government control, rebel forces, Mai-Mai forces, Hutu militias, and other armed groups committed numerous abuses, including summary executions, civilian massacres, acts of cannibalism, torture, looting and burning of houses, attacks on civilian areas, the forcible recruitment and use of child soldiers, and rape.
There continued to be reports that various armed groups abducted women and children from the villages they raided to perform labor, military services and sexual services. Many of the victims have since disappeared.
Armed groups continued to recruit children from the areas in which they operated despite claims that they had stopped the practice.
On April 3, , Lendu militias, using primarily child combatants, committed numerous atrocities in Drodro, Ituri District. The abuses included: 408 summary executions, including many women and children; 150 stores and numerous homes looted; massacres using edged weapons, machetes, axes, firearms; and the burning to death of persons. It is likely that the number of fatalities was higher than stated because the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) was not able to carry out a complete investigation.
The armed gorces continued to have child soldiers in their ranks despite commitments to demobilization. By August , only 280 child soldiers had been released, out of a total 1,500 children scheduled for demobilization from 2001. There were no reports that the government actively recruited children; however, according to Amnesty International [AI], there were numerous reports that it provided military support to armed groups such as the Mai Mai and the RCD-ML [Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Mouvement de liberation], which continued to recruit and use child soldiers.
The government participated in an international program to prevent children from becoming child soldiers and to combat child labor. The government continued to collaborate with UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] to demobilize child soldiers in the military. During , the government held workshops to facilitate the reintegration of former child soldiers into their home communities as part of its ongoing demobilization program enforced by the National Bureau for Demobilization and Reintegration.
Armed groups continued to abduct and forcibly recruit children to serve as forced laborers, porters, combatants, “war wives” and sex slaves. Although most leaders of armed groups publicly opposed the recruitment of child soldiers, and publicly supported demobilization efforts, armed groups increased child recruitment efforts during . According to UNICEF, as many as one-third of the country’s children may have been forced to take up arms. There were at least 10,000 child soldiers in Ituri alone, many of whom were very young, including a 7-year-old boy who served with PUSIC [Party for Unity and Safeguarding of the Integrity of Congo].
All armed groups in the east, including the North Kivu Local Defense Forces, continued to recruit children [during 2003]. Children made up a large percentage, and in some cases the majority, of soldiers in an armed unit. For example, reliable reports indicated that children accounted for at least 40 percent of UPC [Union of Congolese Patriots], FAPC [People’s Armed Forces of Congo], FNI/FRPI [Front for National Integration/ Patriotic Force of Resistance in Ituri], and APC [Congolese Popular Army] forces, and up to 50 percent of Mundundu-40 forces.
Children were voluntarily and forcibly recruited; however, no reliable data was available on the number of children recruited willingly versus forcibly. Although a large number of Ituri’s child soldiers enlisted voluntarily, most “volunteer” children came from families who were victims of killings or village attacks, and had lost some or all of their family and community safety net during the conflict. Many children joined an armed group based on their ethnic origins and their places in shifting military alliances; however, most made calculated decisions about their “best chances for survival” and aligned with whichever group looked most likely to support them.
For example, according to AI, in April , a 12-year-old Hema enlisted in the UPC after Lendu combatants killed his sister, and underwent 5 weeks of combat training at Katoto. On May 11, , in Bunia, his superiors ordered him to kill a number of civilians who were considered enemies. There were a number of cases of recruitment targets and campaigns, forced recruitment, and recruitment of former child soldiers who had been demobilized. Many children were abducted from their families and from schools by various armed groups, including young girls who were frequently forced to served as “war wives” and sex slaves for soldiers.
For example, in January , RCD/G officials forcibly abducted children from a local school in Kalehe, North Kivu. Idjwi Island, located in the middle of Lake Kivu, in South Kivu has been the site of intense child soldier recruitment, some of which was by force, since June . The RCD/G [Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma] deliberately targeted former child soldiers who had left the Army or been officially demobilized. For example, AI reported that a 17-year-old who was originally recruited by the RCD/G in 1998 but later fled the Army was in hiding after RCD/G soldiers went several times to his house to forcibly recruit him. Another 16-year-old former soldier was forcibly recruited, at gunpoint, in front of his family.
According to AI, militias often used children they recruited as “cannon fodder.” Many children were sent to the front lines of combat to serve as decoys, scouts and bodyguards, and forced to commit abuses such as rape, killings, and cannibalistic and sexual acts with enemy corpses. In January, a large number of children were killed during armed clashes in Uvira. In February , more than 40 child soldiers were killed in Ituri, in clashes at Lipri and Songolo. In May and July , the PUSIC sent at least 250 children to Uganda for military training and there were reports that RCD/G sent children to Rwanda for military training.
Children were treated brutally if they failed to obey orders. Some were beaten or placed in detention for falling asleep while on guard duty, failure to obey orders, or desertion. In detention, they were often tortured and otherwise ill-treated. In addition, a number of children who were captured in battle suffered torture and imprisonment. According to a credible source, in April , a 16-year-old UPC combatant was involved in a battle against FNI forces south of Bunia. During the battle, he was captured, severely beaten, and had his front teeth knocked out with a rifle butt. Further beatings resulted in broken ribs and lesions. He was then thrown into a “Mabusu,” or underground prison pit, for 3 weeks before he escaped.
Child soldiers have also been victims of extrajudicial executions. For example, on May 25, , according to AI, a child soldier was arrested in Uvira, South Kivu by the RCD/G after allegedly killing a soldier while trying to steal his radio. He was not tried, and was executed in public the same day.
Girl soldiers [are] often assaulted, raped, and infected with HIV/AIDS. In Ituri, girls have been utilized as foot soldiers, domestics and sex slaves. In some cases, sexual abuse was of a limited duration or was carried out in a sporadic manner, many times with different victimizers. For example, in October and November , the UPC and FNI forcibly abducted girls in Djugu Territory. Credible reports indicated that the UPC beat a woman to death after she tried to prevent her 15-year-old daughter from being forcibly taken. In addition, on Nov. 30, , two girls, aged 14 and 15, were reportedly taken by the same unit to be used as sexual slaves. There were also reports that beginning in September girls as young as 14 years were regularly abducted by members of the FNI.
Other girls were subjected to repeated rape over longer periods with one victimizer. These girls were commonly referred to as “war wives,” who often served both as fighting elements in active combat and sexual slaves for their commanders.
Rebel groups and militias demobilized some child soldiers with assistance from MONUC [United Nations Mission in the DRC], UNICEF, and NGOs; militias often did so when they could no longer feed the children. For example, between March and August , RCD/ML demobilized approximately 80 children at a demobilization center outside Beni, North Kivu. In August, at least 37 children, including five girls under the age of 15 were released from the RCD/G Kavumu training camp and demobilized. However, demobilization efforts have been hampered in South Kivu by hostile attitudes of some RCD/G commanders and re-recruitment efforts. For example, AI reported that on July 19, , a local human rights activist in Uvira was briefly detained and ordered to refuse to accept any children at the demobilization center, which his NGO managed.
In August , RCD/G authorities in Uvira, South Kivu, announced on the radio that NGOs were no longer allowed to assist in the demobilization of children; however, NGOs were not prevented from assisting.
On Dec. 3, , UN forces freed at least 34 women and girls who were being used as sex slaves from Lendu militia camps near the town of Djugu, northwest of Bunia; the women and girls, who were between the ages of 12 and 23, were kept in underground prison cells.
RCD/G soldiers continued to forcibly conscript adults and children, often forcing those they had arbitrarily arrested to train and serve with RCD/G forces.
Child soldiers, among other vulnerable children, have been involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Ituri District to the benefit of their militia commanders. For example, there were credible reports that children aged between 10 and 18, many of them associated with the FNI, worked in gold mines in Djugu Territory. Active or former child soldiers, mostly between the ages of 11 and 15, also worked in gold mines in UPC-controlled area of Iga Barriere on behalf of their UPC commanders, who paid them very low wages to dig for them. Credible reports indicate that in the mining areas of Mongbwalu, Iga Barriere, and Centrale, an elevated number of re-recruitments of former child solders took place to secure mine labor for the armed groups, including the UPC and FNI. There continued to be reports that children worked in coltan mines, often because of economic necessity.
The government repeatedly has severely criticized the abduction of women and children by armed groups in areas of the country not under government control. In May 2002, the government filed a case against Rwanda in the World Court, accusing Rwandan soldiers of killing, raping and kidnapping civilians in the country.
Congo, Republic of
During the 1997-2001 civil conflict, there were reports that children were recruited as soldiers for service in the war in the Pool region by both government and Ninja forces. In addition, following the 2002 shootings in Brazzaville, there were unconfirmed reports of street children being recruited for military service in the Pool region. The government denied that recruitment of child soldiers was authorized and stated its opposition to child soldiers; however, unofficial sources indicated that the children were not forced, but rather enticed by offers of money and new clothing. There were no such reports since the signing of the March Peace Accords. During , the local office of the International Labor Organization (ILO) formally launched a child soldier program.
[C]orroborated reports [reveal] that [the Rebel “New Forces” (NF), composed of Patriotic Movement of Cote d’Ivoire (MPCI), Ivoirian Popular Movement of the Greater West (MPIGO), and Movement for Justice and Peace (MPJ), who retained control in Bouake, Korhogo, and the northern half of the country] forcibly conscripted locals to join their ranks. Those who refused reportedly disappeared. Many of the conscripts were youth or children, although there also were reports that many volunteered to join the rebels.
In May , UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, [Olara Otunnu], visited Abidjan and said that conflicts, poverty and education disruptions were putting children in danger. A knowledgeable UN representative reported that in government-held territory, it was common for pro-government militias to recruit children, both on a voluntary and a forced basis.
There were credible reports that the rebel forces that controlled the north and the west used child soldiers, whom they recruited and armed after September 2002. NGOs reported that in the west, rebel forces were actively recruiting child soldiers from refugee camps and other areas. In the north, many rebel soldiers volunteered at ages 15 or younger.
With the continuing crisis, the government, UN agencies, and international humanitarian agencies concentrated on child soldiers and children displaced because of the war.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Like others in society, children were the objects of intense political indoctrination; even mathematics textbooks propound party dogma. In addition, foreign visitors and academic sources reported that children from an early age were subjected to several hours a week of mandatory military training and indoctrination at their schools.
[Guinean] law provides for compulsory military service for persons between 18 and 25 years old; however, boys under the age of 16 could volunteer for military service with the consent of their parents or tutors.
[Saddam Hussein’s] regime held 3-week training courses in weapons use, hand-to-hand fighting, rappelling from helicopters, and infantry tactics for children between 10 and 15 years of age. Camps for these “Saddam Cubs” operated throughout the country. Senior military officers who supervised the course noted that the children held up under the “physical and psychological strain” of training that lasted for as long as 14 hours each day. Families reportedly were threatened with the loss of their food ration cards if they refused to enroll their children in the course. Similarly, authorities reportedly withheld school examination results to students unless they registered in the Fedayeen Saddam organization. Each year the regime enrolled children as young as 10 years of age in a paramilitary training program.
Israel and the occupied territories
Palestinian terrorist groups used minors to prepare attacks or carry them out and as human shields [in 2003]. These youths were recruited to throw pipe bombs and plant explosives. On January 11, , two Palestinian youths attempted to infiltrate the Israeli Netzarim settlement in Gaza. The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] captured both youths after shooting and wounding one of them. Neither was armed.
Government and rebel forces forcibly conscripted persons, including children, to serve as porters, forced laborers, combatants and sex slaves. There were credible reports that the commanders of these children used narcotics and cocaine to induce the children to fight and to kill. The various armed militias continued to recruit forcibly from IDP [Internally Displaced Persons] camps and schools and deploy underage soldiers, including girls. Some children were as young as 9 years old. There were an estimated 15,000 child soldiers in the country.
UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] reported that in some factions, 70 percent of combatants were children. In June , government forces attempted to forcibly conscript dozens of young men from the streets of Monrovia, and take them to military camps where they were to be armed and sent to fight. There were credible reports that the LURD [Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy] engaged in similar forced recruitment and deployment tactics. Thousands of child soldiers have yet to be demobilized or disarmed.
There were thousands of children living on the street of Monrovia; however, it is difficult to tell who were street children, ex-combatants, or IDPs. Approximately 100 under-funded orphanages operated in and around Monrovia; however, many orphans lived outside these institutions. These institutions did not receive any government funding, but relied on private donations. Nearly all youths witnessed terrible atrocities, and some committed atrocities themselves.
All existing military groups have abducted or otherwise compelled large numbers of children to serve as soldiers, sex slaves and in other service capacities.
[Liberian] law does not prohibit trafficking in persons, and there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from and within the country. There were reports of forced labor, including by children, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Citizens, including children, have been trafficked to the Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and the United Kingdom, in some cases for commercial sexual exploitation.
Despite the Penal Code’s prohibition on slavery, citizens have been implicated in the purchase of Sudanese slaves, mainly southern Sudanese women and children, who were captured by Sudanese government troops in the ongoing civil war in Sudan.