Polisario stands accused of a severe breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Rabat – The International Alliance for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (AIDL) has accused Polisario of training child soldiers. The French NGO concluded that the Algerian-backed separatist group is actively recruiting children for military service in its Tindouf camps in western Algeria.
The AIDL announced the remarkable findings in a January 4 press release. According to the NGO, Polisario is training children to use firearms and mobilizing them for active duty. The AIDL stated that children “are indoctrinated and encouraged to participate in the ongoing conflict with Morocco.”
The AIDL is an independent Paris-based international NGO, founded in 2009. The AIDL “monitors and promotes rights and freedoms around the world, works to denounce violations and prosecute the perpetrators of abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The group also works to rehabilitate refugees and survivors of conflict and urges adherence to international laws.
The AIDL’s investigations unearthed and analyzed a video of children in the Tindouf camps practicing with firearms and facing indoctrination. Such acts directly violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 38, section 3 states that “States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces.” According to the International Red Cross, this is “similarly interpreted as banning voluntary enlistment of such children and, hence, completely outlawing child soldiers.”
The AIDL appears to agree with this assessment, stating “AIDL affirms that any recruitment of children, their exploitation and their involvement in conflicts and wars is completely prohibited and criminalized in international law.” The organization added that “it places all those responsible for this practice under international responsibility and prosecution.”
The French human-rights alliance called on Polisario leadership to provide “more clarity on this subject,” and offered “all its means” in order to help stop the problem. The NGO further highlighted its neutrality, calling on both Morocco and Polisario to “return to dialogue and peaceful means to resolve the existing conflict” under the auspices of the United Nations.
The neutrality and sincere mission of the AIDL provides further legitimacy to these claims. While many Western activists and news outlets continue to present Polisario as “freedom fighters,” these accusations will likely help dispel this myth. The AIDL’s findings provide much-needed deeper insights into the inner workings of the separatist group and its practices in the Tindouf camps.