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Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received regarding the recruitment of child soldiers by Maoist rebels in Nepal; and what steps she is taking to seek an end to this practice. (103038)

Maoist recruitment of children has noticeably increased in recent weeks. We are receiving many troubling reports about this from various sources. The current recruitment drive is clearly related to the move of Maoist cadres into cantonment camps. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are monitoring the situation closely. They have been able to verify a number of these cases and expressed their public concern with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, on 19 November. We understand their direct intervention in local cases has seen the return of children to their families and out of harm's way.

The UK strongly supports the work of the OHCHR in its vital monitoring and prevention role. We welcome the role of the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Nepal. Both have voiced their deep concern over child recruitment directly to the Maoist leadership. During the visit of the EU Troika our European partners met with the Maoists and publicly condemned their ongoing abduction, extortion and political violence, in a statement on 17 November. The full text of the 17 November statement can be found at the following website:

Recruitment of any such kind is in direct violation of the 'Comprehensive Peace Agreement' signed so recently.

Our embassy in Kathmandu will continue to work closely and robustly with the UN, the EU and other international partners to stop these practices.