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UN's Zerrougui Cites 29 Child Soldiers with NYATURA, Obama Waiver in Yemen

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 3 -- When the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui came Monday to take questions from the press, the initial topic was Yemen, which she visited for three days in late November.

  But since Zerrougui before she replaced Radhika Coomaraswamy on child soldiers was the deputy chief of the UN's MONUSCO mission in the Congo, Inner City Press asked her about that mission as well.

  Specifically, what does MONUSCO do to ensure that the militias now working with the Congolese Army -- parts of which the UN supports, ostensibly in compliance with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy -- are not recruiting children?

  In the recent fighting with the M23 mutineers, the Congolese Army worked with, among others, the NYATURA. And in August, Inner City Press questioned the UN about MONUSCO flying Congolese authorities to meet with the Mai Mai APCLS. (The UN claimed it didn't know what the meeting was about).

  These seem like holes in the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy -- other holes include Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refusing to say, even now, which Congolese Army units were in Minova when well upwards of the UN reported 22 rapes took place.

  But Zerrougui focused on the positive side, recounting that when NYATURA elements were integrated into the Congolese Army, the UN conducted a physical inspection and removed or segregated some 29 child soldiers. But what about APCLS? And what about Minova?

  On Yemen, Inner City Press asked Zerrougui if the Obama administration having in late September waived the US Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 with respect to Yemen (as well as Libya, South Sudan and partially the DRC) was helpful to her mandate or not, for example during her trip to and discussions with Yemen.

  The answer would clearly seem to be no, but instead Zerrougui recounting telling the Yemeni authorities that although the US had given the waiver, it was only temporary and that "the ICC could be referred."

  The mention of ICC in Yemen would seem to apply most directly to Ali Saleh, but he made sure to obtain an immunity agreement before stepping back (and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Inner City Press that in his phone conversation with Saleh, immunity just didn't come up.)

Zerrougui visited the Houthis; it seems to have been an active first field visit. Watch this site.

Footnote: as a final question, Inner City Press asked Zerrougui for her view of a pending law in the Philippines which would penalize the parents of child soldiers. Zerrougui replied that it would depend on the context. But to many, the proposed law would allow the government to go after families perceived to be in the opposition, not to say Moro Islamic Front or MILF...

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