The fate of child soldiers in the Tindouf camps at the center of a debate in Geneva


The fate of child soldiers in the Tindouf camps was at the center of a debate organized on the sidelines of the work of the 56th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva (June 18-July 12).

This side-event, organized by the International Civil Diplomacy Group and moderated by Pedro Ignacio Altamirano, political scientist and president of the Altamirano Foundation, brought together various experts who highlighted concerns about human rights in refugee camps, particularly the fate of child soldiers in regions such as the Tindouf camps.

Judit Segarra, a Spanish associative actor, opened the discussions by addressing the ethical and psychological impacts on children of war. “Children of conflicts, particularly in the Tindouf camps, are the most vulnerable victims. Their basic rights, such as security and education, are regularly violated,” she said.

Ms. Segarra highlighted the profound implications of violence on the moral development of these children, noting that “the moral dilemmas they face can alter their moral development, creating dissonance between their intrinsic values ​​and the brutal realities they experience.”

For his part, Daniel Haener, a former Swiss diplomat, insisted on the need for Europe to react to the recruitment of child soldiers.

“Europe, having suffered from past wars, must be aware of the danger that child soldiers represent for security. It is imperative that measures be taken to prevent this scourge,” he insisted.

For his part, Matteo Dominicci, political scientist and international relations advisor, speaking by videoconference, described the phenomenon of children of war as a “global cancer”, warning of the increase in the number of child soldiers in the Sahel and in Tindouf.

“In the face of international indifference, this situation requires an urgent and coordinated response to protect future generations and establish lasting peace,” he said.

In turn, Mr. Altamirano described the deplorable conditions of the Tindouf camps, which he described as “illegal detention centers”. He denounced frequent human rights violations, including deprivation of nationality, military exploitation of the population, including the recruitment of children, and cases of sexual slavery.

“It is crucial that the international community recognizes the Tindouf camps as places of illegal detention and takes measures to ensure respect for the human rights of residents,” he said.

Mr. Altamirano also highlighted the opacity surrounding the distribution of international aid, questioning its effective use and calling for better transparency to ensure that this aid really benefits vulnerable populations.

Moulay Lahsen Naji, president of the Independent Commission on Human Rights (CIDH Africa) and secretary general of the International Center for the Prevention of Child Soldiers in Dakhla, expressed his concerns about the Tindouf camps.

“Since the 1970s, these camps have sheltered thousands of Sahrawi refugees fleeing armed conflict. Fundamental rights, such as the right to life, physical integrity and liberty, are seriously violated,” he stressed.

Mr. Naji also highlighted the movement restrictions imposed on refugees, limiting their access to economic opportunities and contributing to their prolonged isolation, calling for strict application of international humanitarian law to protect refugees.

The event highlighted realities that are often ignored and reinforced the call for concerted international action.

“The situation in the Tindouf camps and the broader issue of child soldiers in Africa must be addressed with the greatest urgency,” said Mr. Naji.

“By raising awareness, advocating for the implementation of international humanitarian law, and taking concrete steps to protect the rights of refugees and children, we can work to end these egregious violations and ensure a brighter future for all,” he concluded.

In sum, this discussion in Geneva underlined the collective responsibility of the global community to protect the most vulnerable and ensure that no more children are forced to bear the burden of armed conflict.

Experts unanimously called for immediate action to end these devastating practices and to promote peace and security for future generations.

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