Children’s Rights Groups Open Legal Case Against Colombian Military

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 7 March 2008

A coalition of organisations that campaign for the rights or children have opened a legal case against the Colombian Ministry of Defence in an effort to try and ensure that the Colombian Army stop using school buildings as military posts. The Colombian Army has been repeatedly condemned for putting children's lives at risk by establishing outposts in schools, using sexual violence against young girls and threatening teachers.

Below Justice for Colombia has provided a translation of the press release from the "Coalition against the Involvement of Children and Young People in the Colombian Armed Conflict". The groups that make up the coalition are listed at the end.

For more information and to see the original Spanish-language text of the letter please go to:

Press Release

Bogotá, February 26th 2008

The Coalition against the Involvement of Children and Young People in the Colombian Armed Conflict, along with other non-governmental human rights organisations put forward a legal action of compliance against the Ministry of Defense, the National Police and the Colombian Army, so that by means of a judicial decision, they are ordered to cease occupying schools, and that those responsible for this act be punished criminally and disciplined, and that programmes be implemented to prevent this ongoing practice, which is considered to be a serious infringement of the principal of 'distinction' in international humanitarian law and the fundamental right to education for children. The case put forward is based on various cases documented by the Colombian Coalition during 5 verification missions carried out during 2006 and 2007 to the Caribbean coastal region, to Choco, Putumayo, Cauca and Antioquia Departments, all of which are regions from where there have been repeated complaints that armed actors, particularly the State Security Forces, have been using, on a constant basis, schools and other civilian spaces protected by international humanitarian law for the purpose of military bases, camps, helipads, places to park their tanks and build trenches.

According to the information gathered, irregular armed groups, the Armed Forces and the National Police have ignored the basic principal enshrined in international humanitarian law which makes a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants and the protection of civilian spaces, by continuing to occupy schools, nurseries and recreational areas, especially in areas with a heavy military presence of these groups. The gravity of these occupations is not only that it is a violation of International Humanitarian Law, but that, in many cases, these occupations are accompanied many other types of violations of children and adolescent human rights, such as the use of sexual violence against children and young girls who attend school classes, death threats issued to teachers, and the use of students for the gathering of intelligence information.

The prevention and prohibition of the practice of occupying schools and nurseries by armed groups is the responsibility of the Colombian State. For this reason, the main aim of the below organisations is to expressly petition the official armed forces and the police to leave the schools that they are occupying, especially in rural areas, and that their members respect the rights of the educational community, allowing the free disengagement of educational and recreational work that is carried out by these institutions. Alongside this, the Coalition has maintained permanent denouncements against the acts committed by the guerrillas and paramilitary groups against children, at the UN Security Council, the UN Representative Office for Children and Armed Conflict, the Inter American Commission and the Committee for Children's Rights, in order to promote actions which will cease the occupation of the school space by these groups. At a time when Colombia has been included on the United Nations General Secretary's list of armed conflict situations in which the situation of children will be permanently monitored due to the gravity of the situation, and when the key role of Colombian civil society organisations in defending the rights of children is recognized by many governments, the Coalition expects that through this legal avenue, the relevant authorities give immediate concrete responses which are consistent with the national and international obligations regarding the rights of children and adolescents.

Coalition against the Involvement of Children and Young People in the Colombian Armed Conflict:

  • Acción Colectiva de objetores y objetoras de conciencia – ACOOC
  • Benposta, Nación de Muchachos
  • Corporación Paz y Democracia
  • Fundación Creciendo Unidos
  • Fundación para la Educación y el Desarrollo – FEDES
  • Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados
  • Taller de Vida
  • Tierra de Hombres

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