Press Release: Child Soldiers in Colombia

Ottawa, Canada, March 16, 2020 – As many as 12 child soldiers have reportedly been killed in an attack by the Colombian military on a rebel camp earlier this month. The youngest victim is said to have been a nine-year-old girl.

SOS Children’s Villages is outraged and saddened by this fatal attack in Calamar, Colombia, on Tuesday, March 2.

In a radio interview, the Colombian Minister of Defence, Diego Molano, tried to justify the attack by calling children recruited by armed groups "machines of war".

“Children are not machines of war. They are often victims of forced recruitment or, in their desperation, join militant groups to escape hunger. Children have a right to protection. Attacking or killing them is contrary to international law,” says Angela Rosales, National Director of SOS Children's Villages in Colombia.

SOS Children's Villages is deeply concerned about the impact violence and war is having on the lives of children and young people in Colombia. After decades of civil war, a peace deal in 2016 brought hope for peace, but violence has flared up again.

The recruitment of child soldiers has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic due to school closures and a lack of state presence in rural areas. According to official figures, more than 12,450 children were forcibly recruited in Colombia last year.

"We assume the actual number of children recruited is significantly higher. Building peace in Colombia must start with peace for children," says Ms. Rosales.

As a member of the National Peace Council of Colombia, SOS Children's Villages signed a joint declaration with human rights organizations, condemning the attack. SOS Children's Villages has been supporting children in Colombia for decades, empowering families to leave poverty behind and campaigning for peace.

ENDS

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