The Network of Organizations of Children of Serbia welcomes the reaction of the Ministry of Interior and the closure of the camp at Zlatibor, where children, among other things, passed military training, and where girls and boys aged 12 to 18 learned how to behave in combat, how to shoot guns …
The inclusion of children in camps undergoing military training is a gross violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is an abuse of children and is far from the best interests of the child. It is therefore particularly unacceptable that campsites and activities of this type are further financed from the public budget.
Our children need campsites in nature, an opportunity to socialise with peers and learn about other cultures, tolerance, solidarity, history, develop and upgrade their skills and talents, in an educational and cultural context. At the same time, all of that is incompatible with the program of the camp that deals with, practically, the preparation of children for participation in armed conflicts. We believe that nobody wants that, in the first place parents of children, or organisers and those who support such a camp.
We remind that the state of Serbia is a signing party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the participation of children in armed conflicts. This protocol was created due to the need to protect children from taking part in armed conflicts.
On this occasion, we would like to draw attention to the obligation of the state to introduce the public to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts. This protocol condemns with the utmost concern, recruitment, training and exploitation, inside and outside the state borders, of children in hostilities by armed groups that are not armed forces of the state and recognising the responsibility of those who recruit, train and use children for these purposes.
We appeal to parents not to allow anyone to prepare their children for participation in armed conflicts and thus to prevent the abuse and manipulation of children.
At the same time, we invite competent state authorities and institutions, at national and local levels, not to allow the organization and maintenance of similar camps and activities in the future, based on the international obligations of the State as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Participation of Children in Armed Conflict, to inform the public what these documents contain and what comprises the corpus of the rights of the child.