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Rights Coalition Says Use of Child Soldiers Persists - 2004-01-17


A human rights coalition says the use of child soldiers continues in a number of conflicts around the world -- and, in some cases, is on the rise.

The report, released by The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, identifies 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East where governments and armed groups have actively recruited children.

It says throughout 2003, children were used as soldiers, sexual slaves, laborers, porters and spies. It reports a dramatic rise in the use of child soldiers in three African countries -- Ivory Coast, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- where it says youths are forced to commit a range of atrocities.

The coalition defines a child as a person under the age of 18.

In Asia, the group estimates some 70,000 children are serving in Burma's armed forces. It says reports from Colombia show the number of children used by armed groups has increased to around 11,000 in recent years.

The human rights coalition also reports children are being used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is urging the United Nations Security Council to take action against those who violate international laws that prohibit the use of child soldiers.

Among its recommendations to the council are to request U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to compile an annual list of parties who recruit and use children in conflicts, designate a U.N. representative to hold talks with those that do, end the flow of small arms to nations where child soldier use is verified, and place travel restrictions on leaders whose armies employ children.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to hold its fourth open debate on children and armed conflict next Tuesday.

The 18 nations listed in the report are Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Burma, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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