21 January 2013 – A top United Nations official today expressed disappointment after new reports of child recruitment by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) that had previously made commitments to stop this practice.
According to the office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, armed groups that are part of an alliance of rebel groups known as ‘Séléka’, including the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR), have been re-recruiting children to their ranks in recent days.
“The reports of child recruitment are a flagrant violation of commitments made by the CPJP and UFDR and must stop now,” Ms. Zerrougui said.
In November 2011, the CPJP signed an action plan with the UN to end the recruitment and use of children in line with Security Council resolution 1612. For its part, the UFDR had committed to releasing children in its ranks to the UN in 2007 and 2011.
The latest reports follow a separate breach of the CPJP Action Plan, when the armed group refused to release two girls in an incident in Aigbando on 7 December.
“The same actors have been violating child rights with impunity for too long. We will continue to monitor the situation and if no progress is made, we will engage the Security Council on this matter,” Ms. Zerrougui said.
According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), even before the latest round of violence in CAR erupted in December last year, about 2,500 children – both girls and boys – were associated with multiple armed groups, including self-defence groups, in CAR.
Ms. Zerrougui also expressed concern about the Government’s commitment to protect children after security forces broke into a reception centre for children in the capital, Bangui, last month and detained 64 former child soldiers alleging that they were rebels. The children were subsequently released and placed in a transit centre. However, they did not receive protection and their security continues to be at risk.
Separately, the Government has reportedly called on youth in Bangui to mobilize and arm themselves to counter the armed groups alongside militias.
“These developments are unacceptable,” Ms. Zerrougui stated. “Child recruitment is a grave violation. Children separated from armed forces and groups are victims, not perpetrators, and have to be treated as such. Going forward, I urge the Government to take its responsibility to protect children seriously, and to refrain from inciting violence.”
18 January 2013 – The United Nations human rights office today welcomed the temporary release of lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is serving a six-year sentence in Iran, and voiced the hope that her leave will be extended and she will soon be released indefinitely.
Ms. Sotoudeh, who was arrested in September 2010, was banned from practising law for 10 years on charges linked to her work as a human rights defender. Last October, she began a hunger strike to protest against her prison conditions as well as a travel ban imposed on her husband and 12-year-old daughter.
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva that Ms. Sotoudeh was granted a three-day temporary leave from Tehran’s Evin Prison and joined her family yesterday.
“The travel restrictions imposed on her family – the issue that caused her to go on hunger strike in the autumn – were lifted in December, so her temporary release marks a second improvement in her case,” he stated.
“We hope that the temporary leave will be extended, and that Ms. Sotoudeh will soon be indefinitely released.”
Last month High Commissioner Navi Pillay urged Iran to promptly release Ms. Sotoudeh and all those activists who have been arrested and detained for peacefully promoting the observance of human rights in the country, noting that the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights which must be protected and respected.
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