FARC said it will no longer recruit minors under age of 17

World Today

In Havana, the Colombian leftist rebel group FARC announced they will be raising their recruitment age by two years. This comes as the first round of peace talks of 2015 concluded Thursday in Cuba. CCTV America’s Michelle Begue reported this story from Havana.

February 12th marks United Nation’s International Day to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, that recognizes the use of children as soldiers as a human rights violation. To commemorate the date, the Colombian rebel group, FARC made an announcement.

At the conclusion of the 32nd round of peace negotiations, the leftist rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia announced a change in their recruitment strategy. From now on minors under the age of 17 will not be recruited by the FARC.

“We want to take a new step and efficient measures that will help lessen the generations and youth involved in military confrontations,” FARC Peace Negotiator Ivan Marquez said.

In the last 50 years as an insurgent group, the FARC has stated the recruitment age is from 15-30 years of age.

According to Colombia’s Ministry of Defense, since 2002, more than 4,000 minors have abandoned armed groups and more than 2,000 claim to have been soldiers of the FARC rebel group. But at the same press conference, the FARC took a chance to accuse Colombia’s military of also recruiting children.

“Last May 2014, the FARC turned in to the Red Cross, three minors who were under the age of 15, that had military training by the National Police, and were infiltrated into our guerrilla war,” Marquez said.

The military has yet to respond to these accusations, but government peace negotiators gave their response at a press conference shortly after the allegations were made by the FARC.

“It is a step in the right direction, although under the judgement of the government, it is insufficient. We will continue to insist on the need of applying international norms and criteria that universally recognize 18 years of age as the cutoff,” Government Peace Negotiator Humberto de la Calle said.

Although it is hard to have an exact number of children in Colombia who are child soldiers, the Victims Unit in Colombia said that until November 2014, 7,722 children have been found in armed groups. This press conference marked the end of the 32nd round of peace negotiations between the government and the FARC. According to officials, the talks will resume on Feb. 23rd.