INDEPENDENT NEWS

Nepalese Vow To Release Former Child Soldiers

Published: Mon 8 Dec 2008 12:02 PM
UN Official Welcomes Nepalese Vow To Release Former Child Soldiers From Army Camps
Nepal’s Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has agreed to release the remaining 3,000 former child soldiers from Maoist army cantonment camps, a senior United Nations official announced today.
The Nepalese Government has committed to discharging the children by February next year and for the process to be managed in cooperation with the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the UN country team, which includes the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (<"http://www.undp.org/">UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The comprehensive peace agreement, which ended the conflict between forces loyal to the former King of Nepal and Maoists in 2006, called for the immediate release of the children once they entered the cantonments, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy told UN radio today at the conclusion of her six-day visit to the South Asian country.
UNICEF and UNDP have created reintegration packages for the children with about 64 options of various vocational and other skills tailored to their needs.
“The UN country team stands ready to support former [Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist] CPN-M child combatants to resume civilian life as they look to their future in a new peaceful Nepal,” Ms. Coomaraswamy told reporters in Kathmandu.
Ms. Coomaraswamy welcomed the readiness of the Government to address and prevent the misuse of children for political purposes, particularly their use in political violence. Both the CPN-M and the Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) groups told the Special Representative that discussions were under way on how to prevent the youth in their parties using violence.
She also raised concerns over the continuing social unrest in the Terai region in the country’s south, where armed groups and criminal gangs act with total impunity.
The Special Representative said she had met with children who had been forced to flee the violence and had lost their homes as a result. Some children had run away from home fearing recruitment into armed groups while others were afraid of threats against their families if they refused to join.
“Impunity for violence must stop and the rule of law must return to Nepal for peace to be given a chance and for children to live in security,” Ms. Coomaraswamy told the press conference.
She added that the commitment of Mr. Dahal to investigate the case of Maina Sunuwa is a symbolic step forward. Ms. Sunuwar, a 15-year-old girl, was tortured and killed in February 2004 while in custody of the Nepalese Army.
“Children are eager to play a key role in the creation of a new peaceful Nepal. The United Nations and the Government of Nepal are committed to supporting them in shaping their future free of violence,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.
The Special Representative is slated to start a five-day visit to the Philippines on Monday to assess the impact of the conflict on children, paying particular attention to the issue of the association of children with armed groups, their return to civilian life and protection from violence.
ENDS

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