22 August 2014

Somalia: UN Decries 'Punishing' Prison Conditions for Former Somali Child Soldiers

Former child soldiers in Somalia are being held in prison conditions in foreign-funded camps, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougu said Thursday (August 21st).

Zerrougui said former child soldiers were effectively being locked up without trial and denied visits from their family, AFP reported.

"They are held in detention without due process," she told reporters in Kenya after a four-day visit to Somalia.

While some centres were treating children well, others were little more than prisons, she said. Some children were assessed to pose little threat to wider society.

Centres must follow "international standards dedicated to rehabilitating and reintegrating them into the society, rather than punishing them", she said.

Zerrougui singled out the Serendi Rehabilitation Centre in Mogadishu -- partly funded by the Norwegian government -- where 55 children, including those who once fought for al-Shabaab, were being held.

Children there were trained in new skills but are blocked from leaving, denied family visits and have no access to any legal process to challenge their detention, she said.

"It is not a rehabilitation centre, it is [a] detention centre, there is no doubt about it," she said. "Children cannot leave it, even adults or children cannot leave it freely."

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