Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 6 News List

UN decries plight of Sudanese children

INNOCENT VICTIMS The UN secretary-general's report said that thousands of children were used as soldiers, killed or sexually assaulted in Darfur in the past three months


Children in Sudan are living in grave danger of abduction, killing and sexual violence, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report.

The Tuesday report to the UN Security Council said there are thousands of documented cases of women and children abducted for forced labor or forced sex. There are also dozens of cases of children killed in fighting in southern Sudan and Darfur, it said.

The report also examined what Annan called the "deeply rooted" practice of recruiting child soldiers in southern Sudanese military culture, a practice that has taken place as recently as last month.

"It is estimated that thousands of children are still associated with armed forces and groups in Darfur and were actively involved in conflict between May and July 2006," it said.

Official military groups such as the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, as well as militias like the Janjaweed are only some of the groups responsible for the thousands of children who are "used in conflict," according to the report.

They are also responsible for child abductions and sexual violence that plague the country and often go unreported, it said.

Annan said he is concerned at the human rights violations against children, which largely go unpunished, and he urged both the Sudanese government and rebel movements to "act without delay to stop this practice."

The secretary-general singled out "the increase in sexual violence against girls and women, particularly in Darfur," the vast western region where the government and various rebel groups have been fighting for more than three years.

"Grave violence against women in Darfur continues to worsen," he said. "Girls have been targeted in inter-ethnic conflicts as a deliberate form of humiliation of a group, and as a means of ethnic cleansing."

Annan stressed the "urgent need for national authorities to rigorously investigate and prosecute responsible parties and to put into place measures for the protection of girls and women who are more vulnerable, especially among young internally displaced populations."

He said he was especially concerned about the "systematic abduction and kidnapping of children, particularly in Darfur," and urged the government and rebel groups to stop the practice.

The secretary-general also urged the Sudanese government, the government of southern Sudan and rebel groups to end the recruitment of child soliders.

The report, covering the period from May to last month, said that individual commanders of the numerous armed forces and groups in Sudan should "bear responsibility" for the systematic violations against children by their forces.

But it said the Sudanese government and the government of southern Sudan are "directly accountable" for violations by individuals under their command.

The exact number of violations against children is difficult to track because of restricted access in certain parts of the country like eastern Sudan, and the lack of reporting by officials or victims, Annan said.

The report cited several examples of various human rights violations, among them an abduction of a woman and her 12-year-old son by suspected Janjaweed militiamen riding on camels through the Shag Al-Nil village in Northern Darfur, and a 13-year-old boy kidnapped napped while collecting firewood near Kalma camp, in South Darfur.

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