Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Colombia’s Basic Military Manual (1995) provides, with respect to non-international armed conflicts in particular, that it is prohibited to “recruit and allow direct participation in hostilities of children under the age of 15”.
Colombia’s Law on Judicial Cooperation (1997) states that children under 18 may not be recruited into the armed forces, unless their parents give their consent. A five-year term of
imprisonment is imposed on anyone who recruits children under 18.
Colombia’s Penal Code (2000) imposes a criminal sanction on “anyone, who, in period of armed conflict, recruits minors under 18 years of age”.
In 2004, in Constitutional Case No. C-172/04, the Criminal Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
The recruitment of boys, girls and teenagers [for the purpose of participating in] the armed confrontations inter alia
violates their rights to personal integrity, life, liberty, free development of their personality, freedom of expression, education, health, family and recreation.
(footnote in original omitted)
In 2005, in the Constitutional Case No. C-203/05
, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated: “There is no question that since they were recruited by unlawful armed groups – many of them by force or allegedly ‘voluntarily’ – children and adolescent combatants are victims of the crime of unlawful recruitment of minors.”
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
Taking into account … the development of customary international humanitarian law applicable in internal armed conflicts, the Constitutional Court notes that the fundamental guarantees stemming from the principle of humanity, some of which have attained ius cogens
status, … [include] the prohibition of child recruitment.
[footnote in original omitted]
Upon ratification of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, Colombia stated:
The age [for recruitment] shall be understood to be 18 years, given the fact that, under Colombian law, the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces of personnel called for military service is 18 years.
In 2004, in its third periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Colombia stated: “Act No. 418 of 1997, amended by Acts No. 548 of 1999, No. 642 of 2001 and No. 782 of 2002 and implemented through Decree No. 128 of 2003, prohibits the enlistment of persons under 18 years for military service.”
In 2006, in its written replies to the issues raised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child with regard to Colombia’s third periodic report, Colombia stated:
[T]he national security forces do not enlist in their ranks anyone under the age of 18.
Concerning children and adolescents having links with outlawed armed groups, it must be pointed out that, in compliance with article 162 of the Colombian Criminal Code, the recruitment of minors is an offence.
In 2006, during the consideration of the third periodic report of Colombia before the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a representative of Colombia stated: “The recruitment of minors to the armed forces … [is] banned.”