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Peru rebels abduct children for fighting, breeding
Question of the Day
Adolescent females are forced to bear children. In 2011, Peruvian forces rescued a 19-year-old woman and her baby son. She said she was kidnapped when she was 9 years old and forced to have a child.
In April, a pregnant teenager said she was forced to work in jungle cocaine laboratories.
Recent events have opened painful memories. The Shining Path is infamous for its barbaric treatment of children. The Peruvian government’s Commission on Truth and Reconciliation has documented evidence that rebels tortured minors to strike fear in villages and sometimes killed them to prevent them from being recruited into the Peruvian army.
Peruvian prosecutor Julio Galindo recently recalled that one of the Shining Path’s worst massacres, in the state of Ayacucho in April 1983, involved the killings of 69 villagers who opposed their struggle. A quarter of those, he said, were children.
All in the family
Many of the minors under the Shining Path’s control today are said to be children or grandchildren of the group’s founders. Much of what is known about them comes from a handful of interviews given to journalists in recent years and from testimonies by captured rebels or their victims who escaped.
In 2010, police arrested Victor Quispe Zaga, the eldest son of Victor Quispe Palomino, a Shining Path leader. He left the rebels after learning that his father had killed his mother. The younger Quispe told authorities of growing up in horrible conditions that compelled him to undergo ideological and military training starting at age 5.
Other minors being held are thought to be Ashaninka native children kidnapped from marginalized jungle communities in the VRAE, which often lack even the most basic government services.
In April, Save the Children and another Peruvian rights group, known as Iprodes, formally requested that the government arrest the rebel group’s remaining leaders specifically on charges related to their mistreatment of children.
“No one in Peru, none of the Shining Path leaders, has been charged specifically with the forced recruitment of children,” Ms. Carpio said.
Peru is a signatory to international conventions that give authorities legal grounds for prosecuting those accused of using children as soldiers, said Fabian Novak Talavera, of Peru’s Catholic University, a researcher on child combatants.
One Peruvian congressman is pushing a modification to Peru’s anti-terrorism legislation to specifically deal with the issue.
Congressman Octavio Salazar has proposed legislation that would impose a minimum 25-year sentence on anyone who captures minors for the purposes of arming and educating them in terrorist practices. Mr. Salazar said he plans to submit a document to congressional leadership this week asking for an urgent debate on his proposal.
“If passed, it will be the first law of its kind in Peru,” he said.
Analysts say the U.S. government has taken no stance on the issue. Ms. Carpio of Save the Children said that when she worked at Amnesty International, she was contacted by a U.S. Embassy official and asked about human rights relating to children.
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