End Mistreatment of Minors for Propaganda Purposes
(New York) – The Philippine army has fabricated stories that children taken into custody are rebel “child warriors,” Human Rights Watch said today. The Philippine government should immediately end the military’s harassment of children and their families in conflict areas and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said.
In six cases involving 12 children since President Benigno Aquino III took office in June 2010, the Philippine army took custody of children and later publicly alleged that they were “child warriors” working with the communist New People’s Army (NPA). Human Rights Watch investigated three of these cases – involving six children – and found strong evidence indicating that the accounts of their involvement with the rebels were fabricated by the military.
“The army is concocting stories of rebel child soldiers that are putting children at risk for propaganda purposes,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should get the military to stop this despicable practice and investigate the officers involved.”
In each of the cases investigated, the army paraded the children in front of the media, publicly branding them rebels. In two of the cases, the army detained the children for several days, in violation of Philippine law,before handing them over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD).
Under Philippine law, the armed forces are required to immediately turn children taken into custody during military operations over to the social welfare agency, the police, or the local government, to protect the child’s privacy, and to protect the child from further harm. Philippine law expressly prohibits the military from exposing apprehended or rescued children to the media unless the defense secretary or military chief determines that there is a compelling national security interest to do so, and even then the social welfare secretary must be consulted and the child only exposed once to the media. International humanitarian law prohibits exposing captured combatants to public view, including by the media.
In the past year, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has documented the use of children in armed conflict by the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamist armed group, as well as by government forces. The Philippines is party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict, which establishes 18 as the minimum age for any conscription, forced recruitment, or direct participation in hostilities.The Philippine government should actively work to end the use of children in armed conflict, including as guides, informants, or porters, Human Rights Watch said.
Please read full story at http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/10/11/philippines-army-falsely-tags-children-rebels
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