Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | February 10, 2013

Court ruled reparations to be paid for the unlawful recruitment of minors

On December 16, 2011 there was the world’s first ruling mandating reparations be paid for the unlawful recruitment of minors into armed forces. More than 300 former youth paramilitaries in Colombia will receive reparations including monetary compensation and medical and psychological care.

Former paramilitary leader Freddy Rendón, alias El Alemán, testified that at least 350 children, from ages 14 to 17, served in the “Elmer Cárdenas” paramilitary group.

The minors said they joined his group for lack of other economic options.

The majority joined as minors and served as cannon fodder, messengers, and spies. They were also told to dig trenches, clear forests, and cut and gather wood. Moreover, they were forced to bury their mates, and dispose of cadavers. Many girls suffered sexual harassment or assault from other combatants.

Many have since suffered hernias, dislocated bones, and other injuries.

“I joined at 16… life isn’t the same because society rejects you,” said one young man during the hearing. “I joined because they were going to give me a lot of money,” another stated. “When I went into the self-defense force my mom had to leave the village.” “I had an accident that left me with a wound in the head; I lost both eardrums,” were some of the testimonies heard.

“When a minor enters an armed group, the first thing he or she loses is the right to an identity, a family to have ties to. His or her right to play-time, education, and social protection is violated,” anthropologist Rocío Rubio Serrano told the court.

Several young victims said that they would feel compensated by access to an education and job opportunities.


Through a New Lens: A Child-Sensitive Approach to Transitional Justice.

Colombia: Overcoming Lost Childhoods – Lesson learned from the reabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers.

CRIN’s news page on Colombia.

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