Larry Cox / Amnesty International USA – 2009-02-26 21:39:29
(February 21, 2009) — Samuel was 16 when he was taken from his home in eastern Congo by an armed rebel group. He told Amnesty International that his unit regularly killed, looted, and raped, often under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
In February 2008, Samuel was captured by Congolese national armed forces and released into the care of a child protection agency. He is one of the lucky ones.
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At the height of the Congolese conflict, as many as 30,000 boys and girls were fighting with various armed groups. And with conflict raging anew in northern Congo, our most recent investigations indicate that for every two children released, another five are being recruited.
But there is hope. Thomas Lubanga, a once-powerful rebel leader in northeastern Congo, was arrested and is now standing trial before the International Criminal Court in the Hague accused of recruiting children as young as 9 to fight on the front lines back in 2002 and 2003.
Amnesty International is working to expose and hold accountable those who recruit child soldiers and to enhance rehabilitation and reintegration efforts for these demobilized children.
Thomas Lubanga is now in custody, but many others who are responsible for heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo are still roaming free. None of this is inevitable or irreversible, but one thing is clear — the use of children in armed conflicts around the world vastly exceeds the resources devoted to stopping it.
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Around the world today, children are not only war’s victims, but also its combatants. Their guns are now silent but the struggles remain. Support our work to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and expand funding for their rehabilitation.
Did you know that girls as well as boys are kidnapped and forced into combat in many parts of the world?
Jackie Redd was only 13 when she was abducted by an armed rebel group in Liberia and compelled to fight. She was one of about 30,000 women who endured unimaginable brutality as combatants in the country’s bloody civil war that ended in 2003.
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Jackie, and so many girls like her, suffered unimaginable horrors at the hands of fellow soldiers. In addition to the violence of war, abducted girls were often taken as “wives” by their commanders and subjected to systematic rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
A UN treaty signed by 94 countries bans the use of children under 18 in armed conflict. But all too often, it is not enforced. Please join me in supporting Amnesty International’s efforts to expose and hold accountable those who recruit and use child soldiers in armed conflict.
It only takes a moment to abduct a child, but it takes years for former child soldiers to overcome their experiences upon returning home. The challenges faced by female former child soldiers, many of whom are also rape survivors, are significant. They are often stigmatized by their communities and ostracized by their families — and without extensive rehabilitation, they struggle to support themselves and raise their children.
Despite her ordeal, Jackie, who is now a young woman, expresses hope for the future “if our voices are heard and immediate action is taken.” She counsels other women who have endured similar trauma, helping them to reclaim their lives and reintegrate into their communities.
Your gift today will help Amnesty International in our work to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and expand funding for their rehabilitation. Please make a donation today to help us expose and bring to justice those who recruit and use child soldiers. Together, you and I can put an end to the horrors faced by so many young boys and girls around the world. Thank you for your continued commitment to justice and human rights.
Larry Cox is the Executive Director of Amnesty International
Amnesty International is working to expose and hold accountable those who recruit child soldiers and violate their most basic human rights. Your tax-deductible gift today will help support our vital efforts to defend human rights and uphold human dignity wherever they are threatened around the world.
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