Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

SDF signs agreement with UN to rid its ranks of child soldiers

Kurdish units have long been listed in UN reports

A child carrying covers on his back walks past members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces after leaving the last ISIS enclave of Baghouz. AFP
A child carrying covers on his back walks past members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces after leaving the last ISIS enclave of Baghouz. AFP

The US-backed but Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, named in UN reports on recruitment and use of child soldiers, has signed an agreement to end such practices and will rid its ranks of minors.

A statement released on Monday said SDF commander Gen Mazloum Abdi signed an action plan after a meeting in Geneva two days earlier with Virginia Gamba, the UN Secretary General's special representative for children and armed conflict.

The SDF effectively controls the People's Protection Units, or YPG, a mainly Kurdish militia that fought ISIS with American support.

The YPG has since 2014 been listed in the Secretary General's annual report on children and armed conflict.

The UN said the action plan represented a written undertaking from the SDF with concrete steps, in line with international law, to improve the protection of those under the age of 18. No timeline was disclosed.

“Through this action plan the SDF commits to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, to identify and separate boys and girls currently within its ranks, and to put in place preventive, protection and disciplinary measures related to child recruitment and use,” the UN statement said.

Other groups listed in the Secretary General's report include the Syrian government, pro-government militias, and its rebel opponents Ahrar Al Sham, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, Jaish Al Islam and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra.

Ms Gamba said the action plan was the culmination of months of talks between the UN and the SDF.

She said it was “the beginning of a process as it demonstrates a significant commitment by the SDF to ensure that no child is recruited and used by any entity operating under its umbrella”.

“Action plans represent an opportunity for parties to change their attitude and behaviour so that grave violations against children stop,” Ms Gamba said.

The six violations against children are: the recruitment and use of children; killing and maiming; rape and other forms of sexual violence; abduction; attacks on schools and hospitals; and the denial of humanitarian access.

Updated: July 2, 2019 08:18 AM

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