Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Deprived of Liberty, Denied Justice: Double Jeopardy for Children in Conflict Situations in Africa

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One of Africa’s leading child rights policy organisations today called for an end to the widespread detention, abduction, enforced disappearances and forced recruitment of children across conflict affected African countries.

The latest report from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Deprived of Liberty, Denied Justice: Double Jeopardy for Children in Conflict Situations in Africa, lifts the lid on the suffering behind the alarming statistics of children behind bars or in captivity as a result of armed conflict across the continent.

“Endless wars are destroying the childhood of millions of African children, leaving those who survive traumatised and scarred,” said ACPF Executive Director Dr. Joan Nyanyuki. “Children’s right to live and grow in family and communal protection is continuously violated by conflict, rampant child abductions and recruitment into armed groups.”

ACPF research revealed that children are routinely arrested and detained because of their own or their families’ alleged association with armed groups. They are kept in high-security detention centres with adults, and girls are abducted from internally displaced persons’ camps and held in captivity for sexual exploitation by armed groups. Even after their release or escape from captivity, children experience secondary victimisation and ostracism in their communities, worse for children born of girls in captivity, which puts them at a higher risk of re-recruitment.

Speaking at the report launch in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ACPF Board Chair Elhadj As Sy said: “African children face a double jeopardy: children risk forcible recruited by armed groups and those allegedly associated with armed groups are treated as threats to state security rather than the victims they are.” The report presents new evidence on this neglected violation of children’s rights in conflict settings – deprivation of their liberty.

“Security sweeps and military operations are done with little or no consideration of children’s rights, with disregard for child protection norms,” added Dr Nyanyuki. The deplorable conditions in detention centres leave children with inadequate food and little access to education, healthcare. The impact of such detention ranges from sexual trauma, physical harm and injury to emotional trauma, loss of opportunities and child mothers with irreparable lifelong and inter-generational consequences. Girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence while boys are forced to take part in active hostilities. Furthermore, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes are not gender sensitive and are more adult focused.

An unexpected finding of the report is that counter-terrorism, seems to be the next frontier for violation of children’s rights. Terrorism and terrorism-related charges create major complications for children’s access to justice in conflict-affected countries. Anti-terrorism laws and judicial procedures have been designed with adult offenders in mind. When children are implicated in “terrorist” activities, their cases are treated like those of adults, often with dire consequences for them.

African Child Policy Forum calls for government commitment to prevent children’s deprivation of liberty in conflict situations. This extends to providing care and protection for children who are already deprived of their liberty.

In the long run, the definitive solution to preventing violations of children’s rights in armed conflict is to prevent conflict itself. This echoes the African Union calls to “silence the guns” and create a culture of accountability for our children.

2 COMMENTS

  1. DRC ,Haiti ,Somalia , Mali ,Sudan , Liberia , Burkina Faso ….Why are so many black majority countries so unstable? Add Zambia for economic instability too.

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