Colombia’s former rebel group FARC is being investigated over the alleged recruitment of more than 18,000 children to fight in its guerrilla conflict against the state, a special court said on August 10.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace deal with the government in 2016 to end more than a half century of armed conflict.
As part of the deal, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court was set up to investigate crimes and atrocities committed during the conflict.
“Instrumentalizing boys and girls in the conflict caused pain in Colombian society,” said JEP president Eduardo Cifuentes at a press conference in Bogotá.
The court said the investigation involved 18,667 children under the age of 18, including 5,691 aged 14 or less, in violation of international humanitarian law.
“FARC-EP systematically recruited and used, to develop the armed conflict, boys and girls in this age range, contrary to their own provisions,” said JEP in a statement.
Some 26 former fighters in the Marxist guerrilla movement have been called to give “voluntary” testimony on the events.
After that, the court’s judges will decide whether or not to bring charges of “international crimes,” including forced disappearance, murder and sexual violence, associated with the recruitment of children.
The court offers those convicted of crimes alternative punishments to prison if they accept responsibility and pay reparations to victims.