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Amnesty decries use of children in armed conflict

Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continue to use children as soldiers despite the establishment of a transitional government of national unity, Amnesty International reported on Tuesday.

"The recruitment and use of children under 18 in armed conflict constitute war crimes and, as such, they are crimes against the entire international community, not just against children in DRC," Amnesty said in the report titled 'Democratic Republic of Congo: Children at war'.

According to the report, thousands of children are compelled to sacrifice their childhood for political and military advancement of the leaders of the country's warring parties.

"As child soldiers, they face a catalogue of abuses: many are killed, all carry the physical and psychological scars of their experiences," Amnesty reported.

"The international community should bring pressure on all parties involved in the DRC, including leaders of all armed groups, to hold recruiters accountable for their acts, and to bring them to justice at the international and national levels," Amnesty said.

Amnesty said thousands of children have since 1996 been press-ganged into the army and militias in the country. Recruitment drives "are almost continuous and forcible conscription is prevalent although voluntary enlistment is also widespread".

Amnesty said: "Going beyond the legal and political abolition of recruitment and use of child soldiers, economic development and peace building efforts must be addressed, so that demobilisation and rehabilitation of former child soldiers can be sustainable."

[The Amnesty International report is available online at: http://web.amnesty.org/]

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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