Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
Sierra Leone’s Instructor Manual (2007) lists children among “persons under special protection”.
In 2006, in its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Sierra Leone stated:
267. Regarding the response of Government to the civil conflict, which was officially declared at an end in January 2002, the Government reiterates that it disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into society a total of 6,845 children associated with the fighting forces out of a total of 72,490 combatants who were disarmed and demobilized from all factions. … After setting the age of majority for purposes of the DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration] programme at 18 years, the Government noted that 8 per cent of the total number of demobilized combatant children were girls. …
268. The Government, through the Ministry for Social Welfare, UNICEF-Sierra Leone and other CPN [Child Protection Network] partners, further reports that it has used a number of child-responsive programmes to react to the problems associated with demobilization and the attendant psychosocial trauma. Various ICCs [Interim Care Centres] equipped with welfare support workers and “camp followers” were set up in order to make demobilization of children associated with the fighting forces child-centred. Mediation with families, psychosocial healing, rapid response and education recovery methods, as well as skills training for older children were systematically applied. An exit strategy for children was also created through the Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) programme to trace and reunite lost and found children with their families/guardians or relations. Fostering and responsible placement were also conducted for children who were orphaned by the conflict or whose parents/guardians could not be traced. Certain child protection groups/organizations, such as the Forum for African Women Educationalists, undertook medical treatment of children who were victims of sex-related diseases, early/forced pregnancies and drug abuse. These groups/organizations kept comprehensive data on the abuse of women and girls and the treatment they received for sex-related diseases and complications.
270. The Government also acknowledges that UNICEF-Sierra Leone, the focal partner of the Ministry for Social Welfare, has continued to provide reunification support in the form of education packages, including school items and fees, for a total of 3,086 children affected by the DDR programme. In particular, UNICEF-Sierra Leone reports that since 2002, a total of 957 teaching/learning/recreational packages were supplied to 550 schools where children associated with the fighting forces were enrolled; consequently, a total of 272,527 pupils and 7,644 teachers in the 550 schools benefited directly from the packages. Besides, the agency records that 1,414 girls who had not been included in the DDR programme due to various fears, including stigmatization, were reintegrated and provided with DDR services. To date, many children associated with the fighting forces have either graduated from school or are advancing their education in institutions of higher learning or skills centres.
271. The Government reports too that the current basic education programme is greatly complementing reintegration services available to war-affected children generally. The Ministry, UNICEF-Sierra Leone and other CPN partners continue to monitor the general reintegration patterns of affected children into peaceful society.
In 2008, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Sierra Leone stated:
28. With regard to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of child ex-combatants, 6,845 children that were associated with the fighting forces, out of a total of 72,490 combatants, were disarmed and demobilized from the various factions. The Government of Sierra Leone set the age of majority at 18 years for the purposes of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme. It was noted that of the total number of 6,845 children associated with the fighting forces that went through the DDR programme, 8 per cent of them were girls.
29. In response to the reintegration needs of the children, the State Party established the National Commission for War Affected Children (NaCWAC) by Act of Parliament in January 2001. The Commission was officially inaugurated in January 2002. The main purpose of the Commission was to provide the requisite environment for psychosocial recovery, and capacity building of war affected and other disadvantaged children, for expeditious reintegration into their families and communities.
30. The line Ministry, NaCWAC and other child protection agencies, with support from UNICEF, established interim care centres, nationwide, as a stepping stone in the children’s reintegration process. Specialized care was provided for children who were victims of sexual abuse and sex-related diseases.