Thursday, June 22, 2006

Burundi Gov't detaining rather than helping former child soldiers

From Human Rights Watch:

The Burundian government is detaining rather than rehabilitating former child soldiers associated with the rebel National Liberation Forces, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today.

On the annual Day of the African Child, Human Rights Watch called on the Burundian government to fulfill its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect the rights of all children in Burundi, including former child combatants.

Dozens of former FNL child soldiers associated with the National Liberation Forces (Forces Nationales pour la Libération, or FNL) languish in government custody – in prisons, jails, and a newly opened welcome center for former FNL combatants – without any clarity of their legal status or knowledge of when they might be returned to their families. Some are as young as 13 years of age. Human Rights Watch has documented how former FNL child soldiers detained in prisons live in overcrowded cells, eat once a day, and are accused of participating in the rebellion. In contrast, children in the welcome center live in better conditions and are not facing prosecution, though they are held with adult combatants.

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