UNICEF “rejects the participation, direct or indirect, voluntary or forced, of children, girls and adolescents in any situation of armed violence” says a statement noting that the UN Children’s Fund condemns the use of minors by the remaining active units of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla movement in the troubled valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers (Vrae). The presence of a column formed by children, called ‘pionieritos’, had been reported last year by the Peruvian press and has recently been revisited as reports start trickling that armed children have been deployed in the southern forests of the Andean country.
“The use of children and adolescents by ‘Shining Path’ is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – ratified by Peru in 1990 – and places them in a state of extreme vulnerability that affects their emotional, social, cognitive and physical development,” added UNICEF. The UN body also expressed concern about the photographs and videos that are circulating about the ‘child soldiers’ urging the media to “protect their identity.”
The President of the Council of Ministers Oscar Valdés reported that the government will work to free the children held by ‘Shining Path’ while asking for the cooperation of all non-governmental organizations working for the protection of children to make this issue a priority. “We have to save these children as soon as possible and prevent others being caught,” said Valdes.
According to media reports, among the ranks of what remains of ‘Shining Path’ – dismantled in the ’90s – there were dozens of children, who, ar largely the children or grandchildren of former members of the original group that took up armed struggle in the 80s.