Practice Relating to Rule 137. Participation of Child Soldiers in Hostilities
In 2010, 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, Rwanda stated:
5. At the time of the drafting of this report, Rwanda is in the demobilisation phase in which children have been given special attention. Their demobilisation began in 1997 with children who had taken refuge in RPA [Rwanda Patriotic Army] and it has currently been extended to children belonging to armed groups in DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] who are disarmed and repatriated to be reintegrated into the society.
7. Measures taken in this area include the creation of a Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, which has a child protection unit, as well as the establishment of a demobilisation camp specifically for children. The camp receives children repatriated from DRC but the remaining major handicap is that these children come in very small numbers since armed groups continue to keep them in their rank and file.
III. General information
A. Situation of Children in Rwanda
21. According to estimates from Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission and UNMIC [United Nations Mission for the Democratic Republic of the Congo], the number of Rwandan children who were involved in armed conflicts is estimated at 4,864. These children can be divided into two groups: 2,364 are children who belonged to Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). The majority of these children joined RPA in search for security fleeing the Genocide, but they have all been demobilised and socially reintegrated. There are then children who belong to armed groups in DRC whose number is estimated at 2,500. At the time of writing this report, 702 of these children had been repatriated.
B. General Measures of implementation of the Protocol
1. Policy measures
24. 17. Rwanda formulated a national policy on orphans and other vulnerable children since January 2003. This policy contains strategies and measures to respond to various situations of vulnerability of the child. Under the National Policy on Orphans and other Vulnerable Children, children affected by armed conflicts are displaced, kidnapped or refugee children who are forced by the war, genocide, poverty or armed groups to take part in armed conflicts. Children who take part in armed conflicts are not only those who fight on the frontline, but also informers, cooks, carriers and others.
25. Specific objectives of the Policy on these children are the following:
(a) To guarantee the respect of the rights of the child during and after conflict situations
IV. Specific measures of implementation of the Protocol
Article 1: Measures taken, in particular legislative, administrative measures or otherwise, to ensure that members of the armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in conflicts
1. The sense of the concept of “direct participation” in the legislation and in practice in Rwanda
71. As it has just been specified above, the Rwandan legislation prohibits military service for children (Presidential [Order Establishing Army General Statutes (2002)] … and Law [Relating to] the Rights and Protection of the [C]hild [A]gainst [V]iolence [(2001)] mentioned above). The concept of “direct participation” of the children in armed conflicts therefore does not apply to the legislation and practice in Rwanda.
72. However, concerning demobilisation and reintegration of Rwandan ex-child-soldiers, the fact of involvement is not limited to children who took direct part in conflicts and, on inspiration of the 1997 Cape Town Principles and Best Practices, it included those which carry out other activities, in particular cooks, carriers, messengers, those who accompany groups without necessarily being members of their families as well as girls recruited for sexual purposes or forced marriages.
2. Measures taken to prevent that a member of the armed forces who has not attained the age of 18 years is deployed or maintained in a region where conflicts [are] taking place, and obstacles met in the application of these measures
73. … Beyond the national territory, Rwandan children involved in armed conflicts in neighbouring countries, in particular in DRC, have been disarmed and demobilised and are hence repatriated to be reintegrated into the society. The Government uses intensive diplomatic measures both at the national level and international level so that children held hostages are identified and repatriated.