An independent UN human rights expert on Monday expressed concern about the increased risk of recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups in Sudan, as the months-long war between rival militaries continues.
Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said unaccompanied children and children from poor families have reportedly been targeted by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia in the outskirts of the capital Khartoum and elsewhere.
They’ve forcibly recruited women and children especially, she warned.
Girls have also reportedly been abducted from Khartoum to Darfur for sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.
To date, an estimated 9,000 people have been killed, over 5.6 million driven from their homes in the civil conflict between military Government forces and the RSF, and 25 million people are reliant on aid.
Children ‘easy targets’
“The deteriorating humanitarian situation and lack of access to food and other basic services make children, especially unaccompanied and separated children on the streets, easy targets for recruitment by armed groups,” Ms. Mullally said.
The UN Human Rights Council-appointed expert stressed that recruitment of children by armed groups for any form of exploitation, including in combat roles, is a gross violation of human rights, a serious crime and a violation of international humanitarian law.
Addressing reports that children might be joining armed groups as a means of survival, Ms. Mullally emphasized that the consent of a child – defined as any person below the age of 18 – is legally irrelevant, and it is not necessary to prove the use of force.
Urgent action needed
She also voiced concern over lack of humanitarian access to children.
She called on all parties to the conflict to return to peace talks and reach a comprehensive ceasefire agreement that would allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance and ensure accountability for alleged violations.
“Urgent action is needed to address these pressing concerns and take effective measures to prevent child trafficking and provide effective protection to child victims and children at risk, in particular displaced, unaccompanied and separated children, refugee children and children with disabilities,” Ms. Mullally said.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and form part of what is known as its Special Procedures. The experts are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations.
They serve in their individual capacity, are not UN staff and do not receive a salary.