Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – As part of a deal to end Colombia’s 52-year civil war, (see Fides 27/09/2016) the Farc freed 13 child soldiers from their ranks, turning them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In a statement sent to Fides, the ICRC said that the minors were in good health and were being transported to a temporary shelter under the supervision of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The ICRC did not identify the children released, saying that discretion was a priority to protect the minors’ rights.
The Farc has long been accused of forced recruitment of minors, though the exact number of underage fighters is unknown. The guerrilla group said earlier this year that they had only 21 members under the age of 15; the Defence Ministry said in May it calculated there were some 170 members under 18. Since 1999, Colombia’s family welfare agency has taken in at least 6,000 child soldiers who either were captured from illegal armed groups or deserted. Sixty per cent had belonged to the Farc, according to official figures. In addition, forced recruitment has been one of the primary drivers of internal displacement, with families fleeing from rural areas to protect their children from being forced or lured into the rebel ranks. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 28/09/2016)