UN welcomes Afghan legislation criminalizing recruitment of children into security forces

KABUL, 5 November 2014 – Senior United Nations officials in Afghanistan welcomed the passing of legislation earlier this week by the Afghan Lower House of Parliament to criminalize underage recruitment in the Afghan National Security Forces as a significant step forward in protecting the rights of Afghan children.

“The United Nations welcomes the Lower House’s decision to pass legislation criminalizing the recruitment of child soldiers in the Afghan National Security Forces,” said Ján Kubiš, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

“I fully expect that the Upper House will move it forward, and that the signature of H.E. President Ashraf Ghani will manifest his strong commitments to uphold human rights, recognizing, in particular, that children are among the most vulnerable Afghans and deserve every protection that can be afforded to them,” he added.

The passing of the legislation by the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament follows the endorsement by the Government of Afghanistan earlier this year of a 15-point road map to implement an action plan signed with the UN in 2011 to end the recruitment of Afghans under 18 years old into the country’s security forces.

The measures outlined in the road map include the criminalization of the recruitment and use of children by security forces; the development of a policy to ensure that children arrested and detained on national security charges are treated in line with international juvenile justice standards; and improved age-verification mechanisms.

The road map was supported by UNAMA and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in their roles as co-chairs of the UN-led Country Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict.

“The recruitment of children has been a real concern in Afghanistan, and should be completely stopped, immediately and without delay,” said UNAMA’s Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon, who is also Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This law should advance the road map for the prevention of underage recruitment into armed forces and, most importantly, should advance the protection of children’s rights in Afghanistan,” Ms. Gagnon added. “The United Nations also urges all armed groups to halt the recruitment of children, as required under international law.”

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