The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website] said Friday that it has received "credible reports" of armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] recruiting and including children [press release] in the country's conflict. UNICEF reported that both pro-government and rebel forces have utilized children, and called for all groups to immediately stop involving children. They reported that as of December, approximately 2,500 children had been drawn into armed groups. They also reiterated that the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 by armed groups is prohibited by international law and constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity for children under the age of 15.
Children exposed to hostilities and other extreme situations where they are held to adult standards may experience potentially long-term negative impacts on their health and well-being. In August UNICEF said it had received reports [JURIST report] that armed groups in Mali had recruited children for use in conflict zones. Children's Rights Researcher Alice Farmer [profile] at Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] wrote that in many cases of asylum, children are presumed to be adults and are detained as such in countries such as Malta, despite UNICEF endorsements [JURIST comment] of standards stating that migrants who enter age determination proceedings should be presumed children until shown otherwise. In June UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] issued a report detailing the violations committed against children in conflict zones [JURIST report]. The report discussed conflicts in the CAR, Afghanistan [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Chad [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Sudan [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], South Sudan [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Democratic Republic of Congo [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and Syria [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], and the situation of children in each country.