Over 18,000 youngsters recruited by Colombian FARC rebels – Court docket | World information

BOGOTA (Reuters) – At least 18,667 children in Colombia have been forced to join the now demobilized guerrilla group FARC and have been subjected to abuse and treatment deemed war crimes over a 20-year period, the country’s transitional justice court (JEP) said Tuesday with.

The JEP investigation, in which 26 former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) testify as witnesses, relates to Case 07, which concerns the recruitment and use of minors by the former rebel group.

Children have been used by the FARC in many ways as part of a systematic policy that has been systematically implemented, JEP Judge Eduardo Frentes said at a press conference.

“A preliminary estimate, which could be even higher, of 18,667 boys and girls used by the FARC in the conflict is without a doubt one of the most horrific acts that could have happened during the conflict,” he said.

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The record came from the analysis of 31 databases compiled by victim groups and the state, as well as statements from 274 people who were forcibly recruited, said Lily Rueda, JEP judge 07.

As part of the investigation, which focused on the recruitment of minors between 1996 and 2016, the JEP will also investigate related sexual and gender-based violence and enforced disappearances, as well as murder, torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

Elsewhere in Colombia, according to the government, underage children continue to be abused by other illegal armed groups who use them as fighters, human shields and sex slaves.

The numbers released by the JEP are well above those previously released by the government, which had estimated that between 1985 and 2020, more than 7,400 minors were recruited in Colombia, while 16,000 died during the conflict.

Established under a 2016 peace accord to prosecute former FARC rebels and military leaders for alleged war crimes, the JEP has the power to impose sentences that are lighter than the normal judicial system.

Former FARC leaders, who have since formed a political party called Comunes, were not immediately available for comment, but previously said that recruiting minors was not a general policy and that many joined the rebels to protect or escape poverty would have connected.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffith; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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