Kingdom of Nepal
Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.
Population: 24.6 million (11.5 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 63,000
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 18 (15 for training)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: signed 8 September 2000
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182
Reports continued of children being recruited to the forces of the opposition Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist). The Maoists abducted hundreds of children, apparently for political indoctrination programs, and some were not subsequently released. Government forces reportedly used children as spies and messengers and some children suspected of being Maoist sympathizers were detained or killed.
Armed conflict continued in the "People's War" launched against the government by the CPN (Maoist) in 1996. A state of emergency was declared in November 2001 and extended in February and May 2002. A ceasefire was agreed on 29 January 2003, and peace talks took place in April and May. However, the Maoists withdrew from the talks in August 2003, stating that the government had failed to implement agreements already reached and would not agree to set up a constituent assembly.1 Fighting resumed throughout the country and serious human rights abuses were committed by both sides, including "disappearances" and torture by government forces, and killings, torture and abductions by the Maoists.2 The risk of violence and the collapse of services in the worst affected regions forced families to flee their homes. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Nepalese were estimated to remain internally displaced at the end of 2003.3
Children were victims of the armed conflict through exposure to war debris and explosives, or by being caught in crossfire.4 On 16 December 2003 an eight-year-old boy was hospitalized in critical condition after being shot by army security personnel in Sunsari district.5 Between February 1997 and December 2002 at least 422 children were found to have been injured or killed in military actions, 73 of them killed in operations by government forces.6
National recruitment legislation
There is no provision for conscription in Nepal, even during war or national emergency and there were no known plans for its introduction, as volunteers fulfil recruitment quotas.7 According to information provided by Nepal to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the 1962 Royal Army New Recruitment Rules requires recruits to be at least 18 years old. However, the 1971 Young Boy's Recruitment and Conditions of Service Rules state that boys must be between 15 and 18 years old to be recruited.8 The government explained that "young Nepalese men could enlist from the age of 15 years in order to follow military training, but nobody under 18 years of age could be recruited into the army".9 Recruits could enlist voluntarily in the United Kingdom (UK) army as members of the Brigade of Gurkhas from the age of 16. As of March 2004 there were almost 4,000 members of the Brigade of Gurkhas in the UK army.10 It was not known whether any of them were under-18s.
Military training and military schools
It was not possible to obtain up-to-date information on military training. UNICEF reported in 1999 that special military schools based on the national school curriculum existed, with a strict quota system for admission. Places were usually reserved for children of military personnel aged between about nine and 18 years old. Students were not automatically enrolled in the army.11
Child recruitment and deployment
The government denied that under-18s were involved in the armed forces, but reports indicated that 12 to 16 year olds may have been used as spies, couriers and messengers.12 In October 2002 a child was reportedly killed in Poddil, Ramechhap district, when acting as a courier for the military.13 In November 2003 the armed forces formed the first Village Defence Force by providing weapons and training to "30 youths" in Ilam district. The ages of the youths were unknown.14
Government forces targeted under-18s suspected to be members of the CPN (Maoist). In 2002 there were reports of children detained under anti-terrorism laws as suspected Maoists.15 On 6 January 2002 the security forces killed a 14year-old boy with mental disabilities from Myagdi district as he tried to escape from a "cordon and search" operation, allegedly on the grounds that he was a Maoist.16 On 13 October 2003 soldiers fired at a secondary school in Mudhbara, Doti district, where students were attending a cultural program organized by the Maoists. Four students, three of them under-18s, were killed.17 On 14 October 2003 government soldiers stormed a high school that had been taken over by Maoist rebels in Mutuhara village, killing four and injuring five students.18 On 14 December 2003 eyewitnesses reported that troops killed a 17-year-old girl on suspicion of links with the Maoist movement in Kavre district.19
Armed political groups
It remained unclear whether the CPN (Maoist) followed a centralized policy on the recruitment and use of under-18s. Independent monitoring was hampered by restricted access to Maoist-controlled areas. In November 2002 and April 2003 Maoist representatives denied recruiting children or training them to use guns.20 However, reports continued of teenagers being used as porters, runners, cooks and armed cadres.21 According to one estimate, between 2,000 and 4,000 children had been recruited since 1996.22 The Asian Human Rights Commission estimated that about 30 per cent of the Maoist forces were children between the ages of 14 and 18.23
Some Maoist commanders reportedly said it was official policy to discourage children from joining, but that some did so under compelling circumstances, for example if their parents had been recruited.24 Later in 2002, in some areas under Maoist control, the recruitment policy was reported to be "one family, one member". Boys and girls were deployed in combat zones, often to assist with caring for the wounded or carrying ammunition. In May 2002 a 16-year-old boy from Dang district said that he had been forced to assist in carrying wounded Maoist combatants to India for treatment, and that he and six others of the same age managed to run away while travelling back to Nepal. On returning to his village, he was suspected of being a member of the CPN (Maoist) by the security forces and was forced to move to a nearby town. A 14-year-old girl explained how arms training was held at night by torchlight and how she and other children attended classes during the day.25
From early 2003 large-scale abductions began to be reported, mostly of schoolchildren and apparently for the purposes of political indoctrination. Although many children were returned within days, the fate of others was unknown. Some of the girls reported sexual abuse.26 In January 2003, 80 children aged around 15 were reportedly abducted from Jan Jyoti school, Salyan district in western Nepal. They said they had received training in "guerrilla warfare" before being released.27 On 29 January 2004, 104 students were abducted from a school in Rameswori village in western Nepal and taken to an unknown location. The following day another 88 students were abducted from a school in Puiyatala village in Achham district.28 On 18 February 2004, 300 school students and about six teachers from a school in mid-western Rolpa district were abducted. Earlier in the month, more than 700 students and teachers from western Achham district had been made to attend anniversary celebrations of the launch of the "People's War".29 Also in February, Maoists abducted and forcibly recruited 13 young girls from a Dalit community in Bakune village of Achham district.30 It was not known whether the girls were subsequently released.
On 23 February 2004 the CPN-sponsored All Nepal National Independent Students' Association-Revolutionary (ANNISA-R) told a Nepalese newspaper that the Maoists planned to raise a 50,000 strong child militia and would start inducting school students by mid-2004.31 ANNISA-R had clashed with the armed forces on several occasions, and in June 2003 was accused of forcible recruitment at schools and threatening teachers, students and others.32
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)
No official DDR program existed, although some small projects were established for former combatants.33 The government has no mechanism for monitoring or reporting on child soldiers.34 In February 2003 Concern for Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), a non-governmental organization (NGO), started a relief and monitoring program for war-affected children in three districts, Salyan, Rukum and Rolpa. Four international donors, including Save the Children Norway, were coordinating the provision of emergency relief, educational assistance and psychological support to children directly affected by conflict.35 One regional NGO noted that "children's advocates express concern that these efforts (at reintegrating children affected by the insurgency) by both the government and other organizations may be catering to less than half of the children actually affected by the conflict".36 Although some child soldiers reportedly returned home after the January 2003 ceasefire, they were not officially demobilized. These children expressed concern that they could be re-recruited if the conflict resumed.37 Such fears re-emerged after the breakdown of negotiations in August.
The government included Child Development Policies in its Ninth Plan (1997-2002), in accordance with its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and created the National Human Rights Commission with a mandate that included promoting and protecting children's rights.38
In February 2003 UNICEF's Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, visited Nepal and urged all parties to the conflict not to recruit child soldiers. She said that children's rights should be given the highest priority in the peace negotiations, and that schools should be declared "Zones of Peace".39
* see glossary for information about internet sources
4 Confidential source, September 2003.
7 B. Horeman and M. Stolwijk, Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service, War Resisters International, London, 1998, http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba.
9 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of the initial report of Nepal, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.302, 24 June 1996.
10 Information on number of Gurkhas serving in the UK army, see Defence Analytical Services Agency, http://www.dasa.mod.uk/natstats/tsp3/tsp3tab1.html.
11 Information from UNICEF , 16 June 1999.
12 Confidential source, London, 26 February 2004.
13 Confidential source, London, 26 February 2004.
16 AI, Nepal: A spiralling human rights crisis, 4 April 2002.
17 Amnesty International Report 2004.
19 AI, Visit to Nepal: Official statement, 4 February 2004.
21 US Department of State, op. cit.
22 Confidential source, February 2004.
23 Asian Human Rights Commission, Children and the People's War in Nepal, 22 January 2003.
24 AI, Nepal: A spiralling human rights crisis, op. cit.
25 AI, Nepal: A deepening human rights crisis, 19 December 2002.
26 Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the involvement of children in armed conflict, "Abduction of Children", http://www.un.org/special-rep/children-armed-conflict/English/Abduction….
29 AFP/Hindustan Times, "Maoists abduct 300 school students in Nepal", 21 February 2004.
30 Press Trust of India, "Maoists forcibly recruit 13 girls of dalit community in Nepal", 20 February 2004.
31 Indo-Asian News Service, "Nepal Maoists to raise 50,000-strong child militia", 23 February 2004.
34 Second and third combined periodic reports of Nepal to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/65/Add.3, December 2002.
35 Kathmandu Post, "CWIN launches programme for child victims of conflict", 16 February 2003.
37 Deutsche Presse-Agentur, "Child soldiers wish for peace, do not want to return to the jungle", 2 May 2003.
38 Second and third combined periodic reports to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.