On 25 April 2013, the situation in Colombia was discussed under the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. Watchlist’s Colombian partner organization COALICO raised the following issues relating to children and armed conflict:

  • A continuing impunity in relation to cases of sexual violence and illicit recruitment of children.
  • Treatment of children associated with “paramilitary successor groups”: as these groups are not considered parties to the conflict, children forcibly recruited by them are criminally liable and do not benefit from reparations under the Victims Law, unlike children recruited by “traditional” guerrilla groups. This unequal treatment is in turn worsened by an increasingly punitive juvenile justice system.
  • A call for the protection of children affected by the armed conflict to be specifically discussed in the framework of ongoing peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Previously, the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict urged the Colombian government to include the protection of children in any future peace agreement. With respect to “paramilitary successor groups”, in November 2012, the Colombian Ombudsman argued for a review of the strategy to address violence by these groups. 

Disappointingly, during the interactive dialogue with Colombia, no Member State called for the prioritization of child protection in ongoing peace talks, or in a future peace agreement with the FARC. The issue of “paramilitary successor groups” was raised by Thailand. Thailand called for appropriate measures to address the expansion of illegal armed groups following the demobilization of the paramilitaries. Several Member States made recommendations on the reintegration of demobilized children, and Chile highlighted the importance of providing assistance to all separated children regardless of the armed group they were associated with. France called for collaboration with the UN in ending the recruitment and use of children by armed actors in Colombia. Considerable emphasis was also given to sexual violence by armed actors. Australia, in particular, called for measures to ensure that survivors of sexual violence by actors which are not considered parties to the conflict can nonetheless receive appropriate reparations.

In its concluding remarks, Colombia accepted the recommendations on rehabilitation of demobilized children. However, it rejected any recommendation alluding to armed actors not considered parties to the conflict, arguing that the existing legal framework is adequate to deal with such groups.