Population: 27.1 million (12.4 million under 18
Government Armed Forces: 69,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18 1
Optional Protocol: ratified 3 January 2007
Other Treaties: CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Under the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) parties were committed not to use or enlist children in any military force and to release under-18s immediately. There were no further reports of government forces using children, but Maoist recruitment of children continued after the April 2006 ceasefire and there were delays in the registration and release of under-18 Maoist personnel cantoned under the CPA.


A ceasefire in April 2006 brought to an end the 10-year armed conflict between the security forces and the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist). King Gyanendra had been forced to relinquish power following mass demonstrations organized by an alliance of the seven mainstream political parties (the Seven-Party Alliance, SPA) and supported by the Maoists.2 A Code of Conduct agreed between the SPA and the CPN (Maoist) on 25 May 2006 provided for a freeze on new recruitment by either side, but there were no provisions relating to children already in the CPN (Maoist). A Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), finalized in November 2006, included provisions committing the parties not to use or enlist children in any military force and to rescue and rehabilitate such children immediately.3 This was the first time the issue was considered in the peace process.

In January 2007 a newly set up United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), with the assistance of other UN agencies, embarked on a program of registration and verification of Maoist army combatants, the first phase of which ended in mid-February 2007. The start of the second phase, which among other things specifically aimed at the identification of minors, began in June 2007 but was subject to delays and not completed until December (see below).4

There were concerns about the involvement of children in political activities, including demonstrations, and their ensuing vulnerability to manipulation, indoctrination, injury and death. During the protests in April 2006, 18 demonstrators were killed and more than 4,000 were reportedly injured by the security forces, many of them children.5

Incidents of excessive use of force continued to be reported, especially in the context of protests by members of the Madhesi community of southern Nepal, who were demanding autonomy and an end to discrimination. Five children were killed between December 2006 and early February 2007, four of them by police. In December 2006 a 17-year-old boy was killed by a police officer in Nepalgunj when police opened fire at a crowd of demonstrators during curfew time. On 22 January 2007 the police and the Armed Police Force (APF) fired live ammunition directly at demonstrators, resulting in a total of four deaths, including that of a 15-year-old boy, and several injuries caused by gunshots, including to two boys aged 13 and 14. On 1 February, two 15-year-old boys died of gunshot injuries when the police and the APF fired live ammunition during a demonstration in Inaruwa, Sunsari district.6

In March 2007 UNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on all political parties to develop codes of conduct to prevent the misuse and manipulation of children during political activity.7 As of October 2007, no political party was known to have developed one.

During the period between August 2005 and September 2006 there were 63 documented incidents related to explosive devices which killed 29 children and injured 70 others. According to a survey carried out during the first six months of 2006 by the UNICEF Mine Action Unit, the number of such incidents was much larger, with children far more affected than adults and representing 78 per cent of reported casualties. Most of the incidents involved improvised explosive devices left by the People's Liberation Army (PLA, the armed wing of the CPN (Maoist)). Casualties from incidents involving improvised explosive devices were reduced during the post-ceasefire period.8

The British army took Nepalese recruits in its Brigade of Gurkhas. Applicants had to be at least 17 years and 6 months at the beginning of the year they began their training.9 As of April 2007 there were around 3,500 members of the Brigade of Gurkhas in the UK army.10


National recruitment legislation and practice

As part of a wider program of political and legal reform, a new Army Act came into force in 2006. The army was made accountable to the government rather than to the crown, and was renamed the Nepalese Army. The new Act did not include provisions for the minimum age of recruitment which continued to be governed by the 1962 Royal Army New Recruitment Rules; these required recruits to be at least 18 years old. The 1971 Young Boy's Recruitment and Conditions of Service Rules, which stated that recruits had to be between 15 and 18, was declared null and void by a Supreme Court ruling in 2005, on the grounds that recruiting under-18s contravened the constitution.11 In its declaration on ratifying the Optional Protocol, the government stated that 18 was the minimum age of recruitment, and that recruitment into the army was voluntary.12

Child recruitment and deployment

Recruitment of children into the security forces was rare, although there were reports of the use of children by the security forces as messengers, spies or informants.13 Such practices stopped after May 2007, when the army was confined to barracks.

Many children who surrendered to the security forces or who were captured were subjected to threats, ill-treatment or torture by army personnel in order to force them to disclose information about their activities with the Maoists, or to provide sensitive information about and sometimes guide the security forces to the locations of Maoist camps. It was common for children who were arrested, sometimes after having escaped from the Maoists, to be detained unlawfully in locations such as army barracks.14 They were denied access to lawyers and to their families. Some were detained under anti-terrorist legislation.At least four people who were children at the time of their arrest reportedly remained imprisoned in mid-2007, some reportedly charged with murder.15

Armed Groups:

Despite widespread evidence to the contrary, the CPN (Maoist) consistently denied that it recruited or used children for military activity. The party's publicly stated policy was that it did not allow anyone younger than 18 to join either the People's Liberation Army or the "people's militias".16

During the conflict, the recruitment by the Maoists of children, both boys and girls, mostly between ten and 16 (although the youngest known was eight), took three main forms: through special recruitment campaigns such as "one family, one member for the Party", where children were recruited forcibly or voluntarily; through the community activities of Maoist cultural groups, full or part-time militias and associated organizations, such as the students' and women's organizations, or directly by the PLA; and through the widespread practice of mass abductions and forced participation in mass meetings and cultural events in rural areas.17

Children from all the Maoist organizations performed a range of support tasks, including fund-raising, "mobilizing" communities and acting as messengers, spies or providers of food or shelter. Children were also used as sentries, bodyguards, logistics assistants and combatants by the PLA. According to OHCHR children were used by PLA as combatants during clashes in Palpa district in January 2006, and a significant number of children were used as porters during a PLA attack in Panauti, Kavre district, in February 2006 and during a clash in Khidim, Arghakanchi district, in the same month.18

Children between the ages of ten and 16 were generally first recruited into the militia on a part-time basis. They carried out propaganda activities, distributed Maoist newspapers or served as spies and messengers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some were unarmed, while others had crude weapons.19 Only children over 16 were officially able to join the "whole-timers", although many were in fact much younger. "Whole-timers" were given one month's training on personal security, military tactics and political ideology and were equipped with crude weapons such as home-made guns and pressure-cooker bombs. They were usually deployed in areas away from their homes and family and no longer attended school.20

Being a "whole-timer" typically led to joining the PLA. The general practice of the PLA was to enrol children above the age of 16 after an initial period as members of the Maoist militia. However, children who were allegedly particularly keen to join were integrated directly into the PLA.

Children continued to be actively recruited by the Maoists after the April 2006 ceasefire. From May to September 2006 a total of 154 new incidents of recruitment of children in all five regions were documented by local organizations and OHCHR, of which 72 involved recruitments into the PLA (the youngest being 12 years old) and 82 into other Maoist-affiliated organizations, including militias.21 In the Eastern Region, the Office of OHCHR confirmed the abduction by the PLA after April 2006 of five boys between the ages of 13 and 17 from the Bhanubhakta Secondary-school, Mangalbare, Ilam district. The children's parents maintained that the children were forcibly taken.22

At the end of February 2007, members of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism Task Force, set up in 2005 to monitor and report to the UN Security Council on children in armed conflict, had documented some 1,995 children associated with the parties to the conflict. The vast majority were with the CPN (Maoist) and its affiliated organizations. Among the 1,995 documented cases, 475 children were below the age of 15 at the time of recruitment. A total of 1,576 were recruited after the April 2006 ceasefire, 896 of them in November 2006 alone – while 527 children escaped or were released, the latter mostly due to family efforts or child protection agencies' interventions. Of the children recruited between October and December 2006, some 30 per cent were released after a few days spent in the Maoist cantonments. Some were released by their commanders as being "too young", while others were instructed to take part in other Maoist-affiliated organizations, but not the PLA.23

Most of these children were enrolled in schools at the time of their recruitment. Many of those recruited into the PLA were promised money by the Maoist recruiters and/or employment in the new national army to be formed under the CPA.

After December 2006 there were increased concerns about the enrolment of children into the Young Communist League (YCL) – the youth wing of the CPN (Maoist) – which attracted criticism for its use of violence and intimidation that overshadowed its legitimate activities.24 Nine cases of children active in the YCL were documented in the first two months of 2007.The documentation collected on these few cases offered evidence that children, as part of larger groups, were given physical training and drilling in military fashion (lining up and marching) such as in Palpa and Morang districts. Most were part of regular Maoist indoctrination sessions. Four of the nine children were previously associated with the Maoist army; one of them testified that he was simply redeployed with the YCL.25

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR):

Under the CPA both parties agreed to "protect the rights of women and children in a special way, to immediately put a halt on all types of violent activities including any kind of sexual exploitation and abuse against women and on child labour and to not use or enlist children of 18 years or below in any military force". The CPA further provided that children recruited and used in armed groups should be "immediately rescued and necessary and proper cooperation should be provided for their rehabilitation".26 Of the more than 30,000 Maoist cadres originally registered in cantonment sites created under the CPA, 2,973 were assessed to be under-age, although other children were believed to have left the cantonments before the verification process was completed.27

In October 2007 UNMIN expressed concern about delays in the discharge of Maoist personnel, specifically minors, from the cantonments and insisted that the discharge of the latter should be treated as an urgent priority.28 The lack of progress related to broader difficulties with UNMIN's monitoring of the Maoist army in accordance with the 8 December 2006 Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA).29 Both registration and discharge of under-18s were delayed because of the failure by the government and CPN (Maoist) to reach agreement on various issues, in particular the payment of allowances to cantoned Maoist cadres. By October 2007 UNMIN, together with UNICEF, were preparing to monitor the release of "substantial numbers" of under-18s who had been identified during verification in the first three cantonment sites. It was noted, however, that girls could face particular challenges in returning home and that generally there was a lack of economic opportunities in rural Nepal for returning young people.30


The situation in Nepal was the first to be considered by the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. Nepal featured in four consecutive reports by the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council as violating international standards prohibiting the recruitment and use of children.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), mandated to promote and protect human rights, including children's rights, came under heavy criticism after new commissioners were appointed by the king in May 2005. The chairman and the new commissioners eventually resigned in July 2006; new members were appointed in September 2007.31

In a December 2006 report to the Security Council, the UN Secretary-General recommended that the government invite the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to undertake a mission to Nepal in the near future to help to draw attention to and highlight the need to mainstream child protection issues into the transition and post-transition priorities of the government and its UN and civil society partners.32 The visit was scheduled to take place in August 2007 but was postponed; it had not taken place by the end of October.

In June 2005 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, after consideration of Nepal's Second Periodic Report, recommended that the government "criminalize abduction, recruitment and use of children for military purposes by any armed forces or armed group".33 As of October 2007 this recommendation was not believed to have been implemented.

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Nepal and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

International standards

Nepal ratified the Optional Protocol in January 2007.34

1 1990 Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, Part 8, Article 45(6).

2 Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation and the activities of her office, including technical co-operation, in Nepal, UN Doc. A/61/374, 22 September 2006.

3 Comprehensive Peace Accord Concluded between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), under 7.6, www.peace.gov.np.

4 "Registration of arms complete in Shaktikhor", Nepalnews.com, 29 January 2007; "Registration of arms over; UN team submits report", Nepalnews.com, 19 February 2007; "Second phase PLA verification resumes", Nepalnews.com, 14 August 2007; all at www.nepalnews.com.

5 Report of the High Commissioner, above note 2; Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN), Children Affected in the Course of Suppressing the Janaandolan, Nepal, June 2006.

6 Confidential report on file at the Coalition.

7 UNICEF/OHCHR, "Protection of children with regards to political activities", position paper, Kathmandu, March 2007, http://nepal.ohchr.org.

8 Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Nepal, UN Doc. S/2006/1007, 20 December 2006.

9 See British Gurkhas Nepal, www.army.mod.uk.

10 UK Armed Forces Trained Strengths & Requirements, 1 April 2007, www.dasa.mod.uk.

11 Legal News from Nepal, "SC rules against recruiting minors in police and army," 16 December 2005, http://nepallaw.blogspot.com.

12 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.

13 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 8.

14 Ibid.

15 Coalition communication with confidential source, 29 August 2007.

16 Human Rights Watch (HRW), "Children in the ranks: the Maoists' use of child soldiers in Nepal", February 2007.

17 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 8.

18 Ibid.

19 Confidential source, October 2007.

20 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 8.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Internal Task Force report, on file at the Coalition.

24 Report of the Secretary-General to UN Security Council on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process, UN Doc. S/2007/442, 18 July 2007.

25 Internal Task Force report, above note 23.

26 See Comprehensive Peace Agreement, www.peace.gov.np.

27 UNMIN press statement, 27 December 2007, www.unmin.org.np.

28 Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process, UN Doc. S/2007/612, 18 October 2007.

29 AMMAA, www.peace.gov.np.

30 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 28.

31 OHCHR, "NHRC appointments an important development", 18 September 2007.

32 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 8.

33 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Nepal, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.261, 21 September 2005.

34 See www2.ohchr.org.


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