Several NGOs and civil society activists that are taking part in the ongoing 49th session of the Human Rights Council, have launched a moving call to put an end to the enrolment of Sahraoui Children in the Tindouf camps, in Algeria.
The call was launched during an international conference on the recruitment of Sahraoui children in the Tindouf camps, organized by the NGO “Africa Culture International”, in association with several civil society activists from the Moroccan Southern Provinces.
The participants denounced the exploitation of children in armed conflicts and their obligation to bear arms, as this is considered by the international community as the worst violation of human rights, something that has been recognized by all international legislations and by all UN instruments.
President of Africa Culture International Dianko Lamine said the Algeria-backed Polisario does not hesitate to recruit children aged 12 to 13 as soldiers, and to exhibit them in military parades. The NGO said cases were reported to it, as an NGO working in the region, by a group of mothers who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.
The children thus find themselves deprived of their childhood to join the ranks of the militias, with all the psychological impact this implies.
The NGO Chief recalled that numerous press articles and press releases, documented by videos and photos were published, and their authenticity has been confirmed by the United Nations and by the European Parliament. These videos and photos show children from the Tindouf camps dressed in military fatigues and participating in military parades of the polisario Front militias on Algerian soil, he said.
Participants also deplored the fact that Algeria, as a host country, has consistently denied its protection obligations relating to violations committed against children on its territory.
The exploitation of children by the Polisario, by forcing them to bear arms and subjecting them to sanctions in case of refusal to comply with military orders, is contrary to International Humanitarian Law and is considered a crime against humanity, because of the psychological and physical harm inflicted on children and their families.
Aïcha Duihi, President of the Sahara Observatory for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (OSPDH), pointed out in her intervention that the indoctrination and enlistment of children by the Polisario in wars is a crime against human beings in general. This practice contradicts the principles of human rights and the requirements of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates education in the principles and values of freedom, equality and tolerance in a manner aimed at consolidating the personality of the child.
The phenomenon of child soldiers in the Tindouf camps constitutes a danger for the entire North African region. These children could easily be recruited by terrorist organizations in the Sahel, she explained, calling on the international community to adopt serious measures to deal with this phenomenon.
Other participants, including Abubekrine Mohamed Yehdih, member of the African committee of experts on the rights and well-being of children (ACERWC), Abdelouahab Gain Brahim, President of “Africa Watch”, Moulay Lahsen Naji, President of the independent Commission for human rights in North Africa (CIDH), Mohamed Ahmed Gain, President of the African Institute for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation (AIPECT), and Hammada Labaihi, President of the Sahara League for Democracy & Human Rights (LSDDH), also denounced the phenomenon that affects children’s rights and insisted on the fact that the war situations in Africa and more particularly in North Africa favor the recruitment of children by the armed militias of the Polisario in the Tindouf camps on Algerian soil.
Describing the phenomenon as a serious violation of the rights of the child and of the human being in general, they invited the African Union and the AU Peace and Security Council to assume their responsibility regarding the recruitment of children by the Polisario, which constitutes a serious violation of all the UN resolutions on Rights of the child.
Underlining that as the international community does not recognize the Polisario, they insisted that all responsibility for the indoctrination and practices suffered by children in the Tindouf camps remains the responsibility of Algeria, noting that this undemocratic country is run by Generals who do not recognize the UN principles and conventions relating to the protection of children’s rights.
In this connection, they urged the international community to strengthen the monitoring of the situation of children in the world and particularly in the Tindouf camps.