HAVANA – The Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, agreed in Havana to move children under 15 years old from FARC guerrilla camps and pledged to develop a roadmap to stop recruiting minors under 18.
The agreement includes a special attention program for these children to ensure their return to civilian life, the parties said in a joint statement.
This initiative is part of the measures of de-escalation of the Colombian armed conflict and has been preceded by the announcement in February by the FARC that they will not recruit children younger than 18 years old, one year after their agreement not to recruit minors under 17 years old.
All children leaving the guerrilla camps are to be considered victims. Minors under 14 years will not be charged with any criminal responsibility while those between 14 and 18 years will fall under an amnesty for their rebellion and related crimes.
For children who have been prosecuted or sentenced for crimes, amnesty will be considered at a later stage.
The statement of the parties does not indicate how many children and teenagers are benefiting by this measure, although the chief negotiator of the FARC, Ivan Marquez, said that 21 children under 15 years old are right now in their camps.
“We have reached an agreement with the government so that the minors (...) can reside safely in their community of origin, under a protection program that prevents them from feeling helpless,” said Marquez, whose real name is Luciano Marin.
“In order to create peace, we must ensure that young people and children are with their families, go to school, live a full childhood and youth life. Children can never be used as an instrument of war,” said the Colombian government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle.
The ceremony was also attended by the UN representative for Children and Armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, who stressed that the signing of this agreement shows that “the people of Colombia consider that its children and adolescents are at the center of the collective consciousness.”