The tribunal set up to mete out justice for the worst crimes committed during Colombia’s civil war issued its first-ever indictments for child soldier recruitment against former FARC fighters on Wednesday, March 8. Ten ex-members of the guerilla group will face charges for allegedly recruiting minors into their ranks to help fight their bloody decades-long war against the state, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal announced.
The FARC, said JEP judge Raul Sanchez, “used recruitment as a political-military strategy for which they promoted and executed the recruitment and use of girls and boys.” The announcement did not specify how many children were affected by the actions of the ten. Most were recruited in the late 1990s, and then again from 2011 to 2017, when the FARC disarmed under a peace deal struck the previous year.
The judge cited the case of a 14-year-old Indigenous child who was recruited and then executed on suspicion of being an informant. The ten will also face charges for crimes against humanity, including the use of anti-personnel landmines and kidnappings of members of Indigenous and peasant communities. “They are also charged with war crimes of homicide… executions without trial, displacement (of people in the path of the fighting) and destruction of the environment,” the court said in an announcement.
18,600 cases of child soldier recruitment investigated
Since August 2021, the JEP has been investigating more than 18,600 cases of child soldier recruitment during five decades of armed uprising. These were the first indictments issued for the recruitment of child soldiers, said the JEP.
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In January 2021, five senior officials were charged with kidnapping – of more than 21,300 people between 1990 and 2016. The five pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Dozens of former members of the military, including a general, are also under investigation for killing some 6,400 civilians the security forces falsely claimed were rebels. Under the 2016 peace deal, the JEP can offer alternatives to jail time to people who confess their crimes and make reparations to victims. The tribunal is expected to hand down its first sentences sometime this year.