Kathmandu, Oct 29: The Discharged Peoples Liberation Army Nepal (DPLAN) has called for the justice to former child soldiers of Nepal.
Writing a letter to the visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the DPLAN has requsted to stand in solidarity with child soldiers, the former Maoist child soldiers of Nepal, as they struggled to fashion a future for ourselves – international humanitarian law and natural justice demand nothing less.
The letter by DPLAN’s Chairman Lenin Bista mentions, “This appeal is being written on behalf of the former child combatants of Nepal, thousands of citizens who were robbed of their childhood upon being pushed into the battlefield during the ten year conflict.
“Further, our present adulthood is being destroyed by the deliberate neglect of successive governments, who have not acted on our demand for reparation, compensation, truth and accountability. Use of minors in combat is a crime against international humanitarian law, and we are the victims.
“Mr. Secretary-General, we former child soldiers are being kept completely out of the peace process of Nepal since the beginning in 2006 till today. In line with this cruel neglect, our living reality finds no mention in the Transitional Justice Bill presently before Parliament, nor is the United Nations organisation proactive on this matter despite its obvious obligations.
“Over a decade and half has passed since the Government of Nepal, in conjunction with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), verified the existence thousands of child combatants in the Maoist ranks. However, while the adult combatants have been well cared for, we minors were left to fend for ourselves, and till today as young adults we confront ostracism, discrimination and difficulty maintaining livelihoods. The politicians, especially the Maoist leaders who used us in the battlefield, have played with our lives and sentiments and now, in order to protect their political careers, do not want any talk of child soldiers nor accountability.
“Mr. Secretary-General, we child combatants have endured the horrors of war in the front lines and trenches, at an age when we should have been attending the classroom. We witnessed violence first hand, suffered physical and psychological trauma, endured unimaginable hardship during the conflict, and are experiencing social marginalisation thereafter. The mother party, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and now Maoist Centre, despite being in the government a number of times, has promised but failed to provide us with care and support.
“We wish to express our fervent desire for justice and accountability, as well as a chance to rebuild our lives with dignity like other citizens. We yearn for equal access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, which are essential for our successful reintegration into society.
“Mr. Secretary-General, we also wish to inform you that we have filed a court case on the use and exploitation of child soldiers against Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’), the Maoist party supremo from the start of the conflict till the present, who also happens to be the current Prime Minister of Nepal who is your host in our country. The hearings on the case are presently ongoing at the Supreme Court of Nepal.
“Against this backdrop, we implore you as UN Secretary-General to use your esteemed position and influence to exert pressure on the Government of Nepal to fulfill its legal and humanitarian obligations and respoind to the demands of us former child soldiers. The United Nations, having certified our presence through the UNMIN verification exercise, has a duty to ensure that we child soldiers are regarded as true stakeholders in the peace process.
“During your talks with government officials and political leaders while in Kathmandu, we respectfully urge the Secretary-General of the United Nations to:
• Call upon the Government of Nepal to rectify its position that denies the existence of child soldiers during the 1995-2006 conflict, and to provide appropriate support and resources for their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
• Encourage the establishment of comprehensive programmes for former child soldiers that prioritise education, healthcare, psycho-social support, skills training, and livelihood opportunities.
• Urge the Government and political parties to ensure that the issue of child soldiers and matters related to reparation, compensation, truth and justice be included without fail in the text of the Transitional Justice Bill currently in Parliament.
“We ask you to keep engaged with the matter of child soldiers of Nepal, so that the Government may fulfil any commitments it does make to you. In conclusion, we ask you to stand in solidarity with us, the former Maoist child soldiers of Nepal, as we struggle to fashion a future for ourselves – international humanitarian law and natural justice demand nothing less,” the letters says.