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“The international community has a duty to take firm and urgent measures to protect children in all regions of the world from the dispossession of their childhood, the deprivation of their basic rights and their military enrolment by armed groups, including the +polisario+, so that today’s children in the Tindouf camps do not become tomorrow’s extremists or terrorists”, stressed Hilale at the Oslo international conference on “Protecting Children in Armed Conflict”.

In a written contribution to the debates of the Conference’s second interactive Panel entitled “Engaging with armed actors to protect children”, the Moroccan ambassador said it was appalling to see armed groups continuing, with impunity, to forcibly recruit and indoctrinate children for terrorist and military purposes.

“This is the case of the armed terrorist groups Daesh, Al Chabab, Boko Haram, as well as the +polisario+, which continue to violate all international instruments of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and impose their obscurantist ideologies and military indoctrination on children in several regions of the world,” he said.

He pointed out that the children targeted by these terrorist groups are deprived of their childhood, their most basic rights, their education, their protection and their well-being, as well as being condemned to live with the heavy physical consequences and psychological after-effects of their recruitment by armed groups.

Hilale recalled that children in the Tindouf camps live at the mercy of a separatist armed group, the “polisario”, and suffer all forms of abuse and exploitation, recruitment and enlistment as child soldiers, noting that social networks “have helped to expose these barbaric and criminal practices, and to lift the veil on what has been going on in the Tindouf camps for decades”.

“This armed separatist group is fully responsible for the enlistment of children in the Tindouf camps, which constitutes a war crime”, he noted, stressing that international law stipulates that the use, conscription or enlistment of children in armed forces or armed groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, constitutes a serious violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Morocco’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN recalled that the direct responsibility of the armed separatist group “polisario” for violations of children’s rights in the Tindouf camps is indivisible from that of the host country, Algeria.

“This country shelters +polisario+, finances it, arms it and has transferred to it, de facto, its military, security and jurisdictional powers. This has enabled it to continue violating the rights of children in these camps with complete impunity”, underlined Hilale, adding that by failing to oppose the atrocities committed by the armed separatist group “polisario”, the host country “has failed to meet its international obligations arising from the instruments to which it is a party, and which grant a right of protection to children, considered by international law as an intrinsically vulnerable category”.

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