Former Maoist child soldier reaches out to UN over injustice

  • Lenin Bista urges special representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict to put pressure on government to address the concerns of former child soldiers

– BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Lenin Bista with Virginia Gamba in Belgium.

Apr 14, 2019-

Lenin Bista, a former Maoist child soldier, has taken to an international platform to raise the issue of hundreds of former child soldiers who fought against the state for the Maoist party, saying that the Nepal government has not taken any concrete step to address their concerns.

Bista, who is also the president of Discharged People’s Liberation Army Struggle Committee, submitted a demand paper to Virginia Gamba, special representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, in Belgium on Friday. The paper  puts forth the concerns of the former minor soldiers and seeks the UN’s support in their struggle. It also urges Gamba to make recommendations to the Nepal government to provide compensation to the former child soldiers on par with the combatants who had qualified in the UN-led verification process.

Thousands of Maoist fighters like Bista were disqualified for being minors during the verification conducted by the UN Mission in Nepal in 2007. Among the 4,008 disqualified combatants, 2,973 were minors while the remaining 1,035 had joined the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army after the first ceasefire of May 26, 2006—six months before the peace deal was signed.

Bista told the Post in a phone interview that he had to knock the UN’s door as none of the governments formed in Nepal in the last one decade showed seriousness towards the plight of former child soldiers.

Bista, through the demand paper, has also asked the UN to recommend that the Nepal government the UN mission issue a public apology for categorising them as “disqualified” and provide compensation.

“We also want apology from the former Maoist party for using us for military purpose,” the demand paper reads.

Stating that calling them disqualified has remained a matter of shame for years, the demand paper seeks Gamba’s support in building pressure to correct the mistake. It also demands a high level study from the UN about the present situation of former child soldiers who were disqualified during verification.

The struggle committee led by Bista has long been demanding the government to support former Maoist child soldiers, a majority of whom are living in miserable conditions.

Gamba has assured to visit Nepal to learn first-hand about the situation of former Maoist child soldiers, Bista told the Post.

Human rights defenders have said it was the right step on the part of Bista to raise the issue of former minor combatants in the UN.

Kapil Shrestha, former member of the National Human Rights Commission, said: “No governments so far have shown any interest to address the concerns of former child soldiers. Bista’s initiative will be a major step towards building pressure on the government through the UN,” he told the Post.

The government, on August 24 last year, had stopped Bista from visiting to Thailand for the fear that he would raise the issues of child soldiers in the international forum.

He was set to make a presentation at a workshop on “Youth in Conflict Areas: Healing and Peace-building through Social Engagement” organised by Asian Resource Good Governance.

Published: 14-04-2019 07:59

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