UN report alleges ‘Turkey facilitated recruitment of children in Libya’: Bianet
The United Nations Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya has charged Turkey with facilitating the recruitment of Syrian child soldiers aged between 15 and 18 years old, to fight for its ally in the civil war in Libya. The report claimed the age of the children “was evident based on their appearance.” Turkey paid these children to fight in the Libyan war, where they were “utilised for different functions, including in combat units, and some in support roles, such as guards.” As a result, the reported added, “both Libya and Turkey may have violated their obligations under the OPAC (Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Children) to prevent recruitment and use of children to take part in hostilities.” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry dismissed these findings, claiming they “are completely unfounded allegations without any concrete foundation.”
The independent news site Bianet reported on this story on Friday. The full report is reprinted below:
Established by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya released a report on violations of rights committed in Libya since 2016 on October 1.
Under the subheading of "Children", the report has alleged that "Turkey facilitated the recruitment of children between 15 and 18 years of age" in the hostilities between Lİbya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.
'Turkey, Libya may have violated obligation'
The report has shared the following findings about Turkey:
"The evidence established that from late 2019, Turkey facilitated the recruitment of Syrian children between 15 and 18 years of age (which was evident based on their appearance) to fight alongside the GNA against the LNA in exchange for payment.
"These child mercenaries were utilised for different functions, including in combat units, and some in support roles, such as guards. Many were confined if they disobeyed and some of them were wounded.
"There are reasonable grounds to believe that Libya may have failed to comply with its obligations under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which prohibits both child recruitment and the direct participation of children in hostilities, including those not part of the State's armed forces.
"There are also reasonable grounds to believe that Libya may have failed to comply with its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict ('OPAC' and 'CRC'), which mandates States Parties to take all feasible measures to ensure that children under their jurisdiction who are used in hostilities are demobilized or released from service.
"Furthermore, both Libya and Turkey may have violated their obligations under the OPAC to prevent the recruitment and use of children to take part in hostilities. The Mission came across further allegations of child recruitment and direct participation in hostilities, but additional time would be required for investigations."
Foreign Ministry sources deny the allegations
Speaking to BBC Türkçe, which has reported on the Mission's report in Turkey, the Foreign Ministry sources have dismissed the allegations, indicating that "these are completely unfounded allegations without any concrete foundation." The sources have said, "In fact, it needs to be questioned how such unfounded allegations are included in the report. As a matter of fact, there are dozens of concrete war crimes, mass graves and human rights abuses that the Fact-Finding Mission needs to and is expected to examine in the field in Libya." They have indicated that "how much the mission's works and the report focus on these needs to be considered."
The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Libya concluded its first visit to Libya in August and following its meetings with high ranking Libyan officials in Tripoli, they issued the final version of the report in early October.
Briefly on the situation in Libya
Since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: One in eastern Libya, the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition, the Government of National Accord (GNA).
The government and western parts of the country have been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with over 1,000 killed.
On November 27, 2019, Ankara and Tripoli reached two separate memorandums of understanding (MoU), one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Following the military cooperation deal, President and ruling AKP Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara might consider sending troops to Libya if the Tripoli government made such a request.
Having convened to discuss a motion on military deployment to Libya in early January 2020, the General Assembly of the Parliament of Turkey has passed the motion by a vote of 325 against 184.
In the statement issued after the meeting of the National Security Council on June 2, it was announced that "the military consultancy services provided by Turkey to Libya's United Nations (UN)-recognized legitimate government, which endeavors to protect Libya's political unity and territorial integrity and to ensure peace and tranquility across the country, will be continued."
"The international community is called on to take a principled stance against shady groups, which usurp the will of Libyan people and target Libya's legitimate government," the statement read further.