Asunción, Paraguay, 15 June 2005- Representatives of the Government of Paragay, UNICEF and the members of non-governmental organizations and community groups presented the results of the first round of visits to monitor implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Use of Child Soldiers which prohibits the forced recruitment of children under 18 years old as soldiers.
The event was sponsored by UNICEF and the Coalition Against the Use of Children Soldiers and highlighted results of a visit to forty military units throughout of whole country and interviews with 1,458 conscripts. "This is an unprecedented enterprise in Latin America and an example of participation and cooperation between the civil society and the State in the application of international norms for protection to the childhood and the adolescence" said Adriano González Regueral, UNICEF Representative in Paraguay.
Mercedes Brítez of Buzó, Minister of the Childhood and the Adolescence, María Noguera, Executive Directress of AFAVISEM and Héctor Lacognata, First Vice President of the Honorable Chamber of Deputies, presented the results of the first round of visits of the " Inter-institutional Commission of Human Rights for Visit to Barracks" that took place in March of this year.
After almost three years of work and with the coordination of NGOs and community groups, it was possible to carry out the monitoring visits to verify the implementation process of the Optional Protocol of the International Convention of the Rights of the Child relative to the participation of children as soldiers, and the quality of adolescents and young people’s life that are lending the Obligatory Military Service. During almost one month, representatives of AFAVISEM (Association of Relatives of Victims at the Obligatory Military Service), SERPAJ (Peace and Justice Service), CDIA (National Coordination of Children Rights), the Secretary of the Childhood, the Woman's Secretary, members of the Chamber of Deputies, the Human Rights Unit of the Supreme Court of Justice and the human rights Unit of the Public Ministry visited military units of the whole country and identified concrete problems and challenges so that the implementation of this Optional Protocol would be realized.
The report discovers, although in isolated cases, the continuity of old practices such as the forced or decietful recruitment, locally known as "arreo" in the City of Salto del Guairá, accusations of tortures and ill-treatment or "descuereos" in the cities of Altos, Ciudad del Este and Mariscal Estigarribia, and the recruitment of indigenous youths who are exempt from obligatory military service.
Mr. Lacognata said that the commission confronted some difficulties because of the refusal of the Armed Forces to allow access into the Military Hospital and the health departments within the military units. For her part, Ms. Noguera regretted that during these visits, they were barred from visiting the living quarters of boys and girls, the conditions of life in the military villages, the health conditions, and the situation of employees, known as “criaditos or criaditas” in kitchens, bathrooms and dining rooms.
The authorities renewed their commitment to the International Convention of the Rights of the Child and they guaranteed the continuity of the Inter-institutional Commission of Human Rights for Visit to Barracks and the necessity of reaffirming the prohibition of the participation and all the children's under 18 years old working or linking like soldiers or activities related with the obligatory military service.