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A Path to Reintegration: The Role of Handover Protocols in Protecting the Rights of Children Formerly Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups

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December 8, 2020 – Governments must end the detention of children affected by armed conflict and adopt agreements that allow them to quickly and safely transfer these vulnerable girls and boys to civilian agencies who can reintegrate them into their communities, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict said in a new policy note.

In at least 15 countries, children affected by armed conflict not only suffer at the hands of armed groups, but are harmed again when imprisoned for their suspected involvement with these groups. In some cases, security forces detain children in inhumane conditions and subject them to torture. In 2017, the number of children detained in armed conflict reached a high of nearly 4,500 cases verified by the United Nations, a five-fold increase since 2012. In 2019, the reported figure dropped to about 2,500, but the actual number is likely much higher.

To address this issue, a number of governments have signed handover protocols, which are agreements between government agencies, or the UN and governments, that allow children in custody of security forces to be transferred to civilian child protection agencies for much-needed reintegration support. Despite the inconsistent implementation of handover protocols, all countries with these agreements have reported successful releases of children from detention facilities.