December 2008 – – The Prime Minister of Nepal Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal today agreed to move forward on the discharge of nearly 3,000 Maoist army elements disqualified as minors remaining in Maoist army cantonments, in cooperation with UNMIN and the UN Country Team in Nepal. This was announced by Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, during her press conference, which concluded her six-day visit to the country.
The commitment of the Government is in line with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and responds to Security Council recommendations within the framework of Resolution 1612 on the issue of children and armed conflict. All children should have been released immediately after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. During her visit, Ms. Coomaraswamy interacted with children in a cantonment site.
“The UN country team stands ready to support former CPN-M child combatants to resume civilian life as they look to their future in a new peaceful Nepal,” said the Special Representative, referring to the reintegration packages developed by UNICEF and UNDP which would be tailored to the children’s needs, skills and long-term aspirations, in collaboration with civil society and in compliance with international standards and guidelines including the Paris Principles.
Ms. Coomaraswamy also welcomed the readiness of the Government to address and prevent the misuse of children for political purposes, particularly their use in political violence. Both the CPN-M and the UML told the Special Representative that they were beginning discussions on how to work together to deal with the problem of political violence by youth wings.
The Special Representative also raised concerns regarding the impact of the continuing unrest on children in the Terai. Armed groups and criminal gangs act with total impunity in parts of this region. Ms. Coomaraswamy said that during her visit she met with children who had been forced to flee the ongoing violence, and had become displaced as a result. Other children had run away from their homes, fearing recruitment by armed groups. They were also afraid of threats against their families if they refused to join. “Do not forget the children of the Terai,” one schoolgirl in Biratnagar told the Special Representative.
“Impunity for violence must stop and the rule of law must return to Nepal for peace to be given a chance and for children to live in security,” stated Ms. Coomaraswamy. She said that the commitment of Prime Minister Dahal to address the case of Maina Sunuwar as a priority is a symbolic step forward. Maina Sunuwar, a fifteen year-old girl, was tortured and killed in February 2004 while in custody of the Nepalese Army.
Ms. Coomaraswamy also discussed the issue of transitional justice, including the need for provisions that provide justice for child victims, and to incorporate child friendly procedures and ensure their participation in the peace process.
“The protection and the needs of all the children affected by the conflict should be an integral part of Government policies at national, regional and community level,” said Mrs. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative for Nepal, who was also attending the press conference. She welcomed the drafting of the Child Rights Bill, which addresses the use of children associated with armed forces and armed groups. UNICEF advocates for the participation of children in the development of the new constitution through the creation of a Children’s Forum in the Constituent Assembly.
“Children are eager to play a key role in the creation of a new peaceful Nepal. The United Nations and the Government of Nepal are committed to supporting them in shaping their future free of violence,” concluded Ms. Coomaraswamy.