Former child soldier Aung Ko Htwe sentenced, new charges added

A former child soldier in Myanmar’s armed forces, arrested after giving a media interview about his experiences in the Tatmadaw, was sentenced to two years in jail in March, Frontier Myanmar reported.

Aung Ko Htwe was arrested in August 2017 after authorities said his interview with Radio Free Asia contravened section 505(b) of the Penal Code relating to “making, publishing, or circulating information that may cause public fear or alarm and incite people to commit offenses against the state or disturb public tranquillity.”

Speaking to Frontier Myanmar about the ruling, Child Soldiers International’s Tim Molyneux said: “To imprison a former child soldier for speaking about his experience would be an alarming new low for free speech in Myanmar. It raises serious questions about the military’s commitment to ending child recruitment.”

Htwe, 27, who was forcibly recruited by the Tatmadaw aged 15, now also faces an additional three years’ imprisonment after being charged for standing on a constitution during a protest against his arrest.

104 Dapchi schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram

Boko Haram released of 104 schoolgirls abducted in the north-east Nigerian town of Dapchi in March, although five are reported to have died during captivity and one girl is still said to be with the group, the BBC reported.

The Nigerian government confirmed 106 children – 104 schoolgirls, a girl not from the school and a boy – were freed on 21 March and dropped off in the town where they were abducted from more than a month ago.

Recounting their abduction from the school, one girl said:  "We were totally confused. Some Boko Haram people entered through a school gate and we started to run through another gate but they told us to stop running or they would shoot us.”

A parent of one returning girl told the BBC: "Apparently Boko Haram simply dropped them by a roadside right in the middle of town and said: 'We have now returned your children to you but make sure you don't enrol them in western education again because if you do we will come back and take them away.’”

Mali: UN report verifies 284 cases of child recruitment

A UN report published in March detailed 284 verified cases of child recruitment in Mali between 2014 and 2017.

The report of the UN Secretary-General on child and armed conflict in Mali says 284 children, including 16 girls, aged 13 to 17 were recruited and used by armed groups during the three-year period.

Although 748 allegations of recruitment were received the UN, verifications were only possible for the above cases.

The report says several armed groups were guilty of recruitment: “Of the 284 verified cases of the recruitment and use of children, at least 133 were attributed to the Platform [coalition of armed groups], 114 to CMA, 6 to MUJAO, 3 to Al Mourabitoun, 1 to Ansar Eddine and 27 to unidentified perpetrators.

“Children were used as combatants and reportedly engaged in hostilities, but were also used as cooks and to serve at checkpoints.”

Teenage army recruits make 50 allegations of ill-treatment at college

Staff at the British Army’s junior training college were accused of 50 cases of assaulting or mistreating teenage recruits between 2014 and 2017, a Child Soldiers International freedom of information request revealed in the Guardian.

Allegations made by 16 and 17-year-old soldiers or their parents and guardians about staff at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, included assault, battery and ill-treatment.

The revelations follow the collapse of court proceedings earlier this week against 16 AFC Harrogate instructors who had been accused of abusing recruits.

Rachel Taylor, director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, told the Guardian: “These figures show there is either a serious and ongoing problem of abuse, or simply that these adolescents are routinely so unprepared for the reality of army life that they believe they are being assaulted when they are actually undergoing routine training.”