Former child soldiers languish in DRC jail
From JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – A HUMAN rights group has called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to immediately release and rehabilitate at least 29 former child soldiers reportedly detained in dire conditions at a military prison northwest of the country.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the boys, aged 15 to 17, were members of a rebel armed group, and have been held them in a prison in Angenga since apprehending them in eastern Congo in early 2015.
HRW reported neither the boys nor the adult men detained with them have been charged with crimes, or had access to lawyers or their families.
Under international law, countries are obligated to recognize the special situation of children who have been recruited or used in armed conflict.
Former child soldiers should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
“Congolese authorities should immediately release the children and adults held at Angenga prison who have committed no crime and fairly charge the rest,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Africa Researcher at HRW.
“Children who were rebel fighters should be rehabilitated, not thrown into prison and held there indfinitely.”
Between February and June 2015, Congolese security forces apprehended 262 men and boys of Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian nationality in North Kivu and South Kivu, and in the former Katanga province of eastern Congo.
Those captured were accused of being members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group, some of whose leaders are believed to have taken part in the 1994 Rwandan
The majority of FDLR fighters today are unlikely to have played any rolevin the genocide because they were too young. A considerable number of FDLR fighters are Congolese recruits.
The military transferred the suspected fighters to the city of Goma and flew them to the Angenga military prison, in northwestern Congo’s Mongala Province, between May and August 2015.
Since December, more than 60 additional suspected FDLR fighters have been transferred to Angenga.
At least four of the prisoners have died from illnesses since arriving at Angenga.
Two others were reportedly shot dead in February 26 after attempting to escape.
– CAJ News
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