Children are the most vulnerable to the effects of terrorism, armed conflict, internal strife or militarized violence.
It is estimated that tens of thousands are involved in at least fifteen conflicts around the world.
In the north eastern states of Nigeria, these children are forcibly recruited, abducted, tortured, abused and lured into non-state armed groups.
Torture seeks to annihilate the personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persist the world over.
On 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Resolution on children and armed conflict
In recognition of the vulnerability of children, various countries have, over the years, emphasized the need for a holistic legal approach to protect, fulfill and realize the fundamental human rights of children, as part of counter-terrorism efforts.
It was on this basis that the United Nations Security Council adopted the first resolution on children and armed conflict in 1999, which condemned six grave violations affecting them, such as killing and maiming, recruitment as soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access.
A former military officer and an expert on international humanitarian law, Mr. Sadiq Shehu, said the country’s armed forces Act specified the minimum age for recruitment as 18 years, but non state groups who are not under the control of governments are violating this law.
To end terrorism in Nigeria, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of persons, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, Fatou Bensouda, released a statement on the 11th of December, 2020, that the ICC was working with the Nigerian judicial system to investigate murder; torture; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and political grounds and other inhumane acts.
An Abuja based Human Rights Lawyer , Mr. Maxwell Okpara, said tackling banditry and insurgency would end the use of children in armed conflict.
“The judiciary to be thorough in prosecuting suspected terrorists rather than taking hasty decisions to declare them repentant”.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, in its role of monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children, worked with the Nigerian authorities to develop an Action Plan for a local militia, Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, formed in 2013, in Maiduguri, to support the Nigerian security forces in the fight against Boko Haram.
The UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Ms. Phuong Nguyen, said 4,246 children were verified to be allegedly recruited by non state armed groups and listed in the rank of CJTF in the North East.
She also stated that UNICEF with the support of the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, had secured the release of over 2000 children from the administrative detention of the security forces.
“We ensure that that these children receive their prompt centre base interim care as well as community base reintegration to help recover their lost childhood.”
When Radio Nigeria sought permission to interview some of the rehabilitated children, Ms. Nguyen said they would not be in the right position to speak because of the torture they experienced while in captivity.
Today is an opportunity to remind ourselves and to call on UN Member States, civil society and individuals to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, around the world who have been victims of torture and those who are still being tortured.