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Child Soldiers Recruited in Chad Still Held in Sudan, ICC's Lubanga Case Questioned

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- Returning from Afghanistan, where she took on the sexual abuse of boys but did not ask about the U.S.'s lock-up and military trial of at least two juveniles, the UN's Radhika Coomaraswamy said that governments try to prevent contact with non-state parties which use child soldiers, making the required "Action Plans" for demobilization nearly impossible to negotiate. Inner City Press asked about a recent high profile case of child soldiers, the 91 children found amid the Justice and Equality Movement's assault on Khartoum stopped at Omdurman on May 10.  Video here, from Minute 26:21.

     Ms. Coomaraswamy said that JEM is on the list of child soldier recruiters, and that UN Peacekeeping's child protection unit has been engaging with JEM in both Darfur and in Chad, to try to get children released.

Radhika Coomaraswamy on July 7, release of Omdurman child soldiers still not shown

  Regarding the 91 children, Ms. Coomaraswamy's staff when asked had said

"We are aware the Omdurman / JEM case but we don't have specific details yet about their ages etc. Child protection partners including UNICEF are following the case on the ground. Our position is that children should be released asap and given to child protection partners in order to be reintegrated into their communities in Chad or in Sudan according to their origin. Please note also that we are aware of ongoing recruitment of children by JEM. They are listed in the annexes of the SG report and monitored under resolution 1612 monitoring and reporting mechanism. They could therefore be subject to targeted measures by the Security Council. "

   JEM's child soldier recruiters could be sanctioned by the Security Council, but will they be? On July 7, Inner City Press received a more detailed update from UNICEF's spokesman

On 30 June, the National and Khartoum Council for Child Welfare and Save the Children UK with support from UNICEF organized a day of psycho- social activities for the children who were detained in connection with and following the attack by JEM on Khartoum. The 91 detained children participated in the day which included cultural dance activities by the detained children themselves; a comedy show by famous Sudanese artists; a children’s dance troupe from the Khartoum IDP camp; and a puppet theater show.  The day was well received by the detained children, who --  buoyed by the range of activities - actively performed dances from their own tribal areas in Darfur for each other.  The Khartoum Council for Child Welfare supported by UNICEF has seen to it that each of the children have two sets of clothes. They have also  ensured that the children detained have access to recreational kits - which include skipping ropes and volleyballs.

UNICEF together with UNMIS (the United Nations Mission in Sudan) continues to advocate for the release, reunification, and reintegration of the children and has offered its support to on going and  sustainable rehabilitation of the children back to their communities. UNICEF  have been in constant dialogue with the Government on this issue, and we have visited the children. The overall care of the children was found to be of a good standard.

    It's been almost two months. While volleyballs are surely appreciated, what happened to the " release, reunification, and reintegration" of the children? We will continue to follow this.

Footnote: Ms. Coomaraswamy's staff also told Inner City Press that she "urges that the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo not be compromised for technical reasons. She hopes that the problems linked to the disclosure of evidence will be solved as soon as possible." Inner City Press' sources in the UN Secretariat are expressing anger that the office of ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo based so much of its case against Lubanga on information for which the Secretariat had promised confidentiality. One staffer asked bitterly, "Doesn't the ICC do its own investigations?" Apparently not. We will continue to follow these ICC cases.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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