An interesting (and very unexpected) development just arose this past Wednesday concerning a Darfur rebel group called the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) that is fighting the Sudanese government. Apparently, the group is suing the British human rights group Waging Peace, for accusing them of harboring and using child soldiers. According to this article (and here’s a blog entry talking about it),
The Justice and Equality Movement was singled out in a report issued earlier this month by Waging Peace, a human rights organization based in London, which reportedly said it had filmed evidence to support its claim that JEM was losing support among Darfurian refugees in Chad because it allegedly accepted abducted boys as young as 9 as soldiers.
And a statement by the JEM chief of staff:
“All the information contained in this report is absurd, false and baseless,” Suleiman Sandal, JEM’s deputy chief of staff, told the newspaper. “Since the foundation of JEM we never recruited children in our ranks. Our movement is in full conformity with Geneva convention prohibiting enlistment of children as soldiers.”
This is part of the reporting in question regarding JEM’s use of child soldiers as quoted from the report on the Waging Peace website:
…escalating violence – highlighted by the recent raid on Khartoum by the rebel group JEM (the Justice and Equality Movement) and the Government of Sudan’s bombing campaign – has caused a rapid upsurge in the numbers of young children being forcibly recruited to fight, as warring factions seek to swell their military capacity. The children affected are mostly boys aged between nine and fifteen.
The men claim that children who have fled the violence in Darfur to the supposed safety of the refugee camps are being kidnapped in broad daylight and sold to armed groups operating close by. Although the camps are meant to provide a safe-haven of neutrality in the war-torn region, they allege that some camp leaders have themselves been complicit in the violent abduction and sale of children under their protection. The trafficking has taken place with the tacit approval of the Chadian government who are on site at the camps.
One of the leaders explained: “There are leaders within our midst who help the movement [JEM] and who profit from it… I mean they are selling the children. One leader… uses his Thuraya [satellite telephone] to contact the movement who are encamped … just on the other side of the refugee camp. He calls them when the humanitarians [NGOs] return to their base and then the JEM commanders come and meet in his tent to conclude the trade.”
The claim that the Chadian government is tacitly approving the the trafficking is also alarming.