By Dialogo November 23, 2009 The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia expressed its concern about the recruitment of children by guerrilla groups and other illegal organizations and condemned these practices that, it said, may constitute crimes against humanity. “The Office vehemently condemns the recruitment of children and young people on the part of illegal armed groups like the FARC, the ELN, and the groups that have arisen following the demobilization of paramilitary organizations,” the UN Office in Bogotá said in a statement. The statement also recalled that “according to international criminal law, these behaviors may constitute war crimes and even crimes against humanity.” In the document, the UN explained that child recruits “are exposed to the possibility of suffering wounds, attacks, and mine explosions” and that, “in addition to dying, many children who take part in hostilities are often left handicapped, mutilated, or with other kinds of physical, emotional, or psychological consequences.” In addition, the UN reported, “many girls are subject to a high level of exposure to sexual violence and exploitation, unwanted pregnancies, and forced abortions, as well as to infection with sexually-transmitted diseases, among others.” In the document, the UN highlighted the many positive steps taken in Colombia with regard to children’s rights, but warned that “significant challenges remain in order to guarantee children the full enjoyment of their rights.” “Effective prevention and sanction of the utilization of children by parties to an armed conflict, particularly recruitment, is one of these challenges,” the statement noted. Estimates by non-governmental organizations indicate that between 8,000 and 13,000 children and adolescents are members of illegal armed groups operating in Colombia. Last week, the government specified that in the last ten years, 4,136 minors broke ties with illegal armed groups of leftist guerrillas and extreme right-wing paramilitaries.