On 2nd March 2015, the Zomi Re-Unification Organisation (ZRO) signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. In signing this Deed the ZRO publicly asserts its commitment to respect the highest international standards in terms of child protection in armed conflict. It includes the prohibition to recruit child soldiers and use under-18 children in hostilities.
The ZRO is an ethnic armed movement operating in the province of Manipur in North-East India. They purportedly number around 400 fighters.
The ZRO is not reported to recruit or use children however; they used to have many in their rank in the past, especially before the signature of first “Suspension of Operations agreement” with the government in 2005. This commitment is therefore preventive and in line with ZRO declared will to align all their policies and practices towards the compliance with these humanitarian norms.
“We want to comply with international norms, and signing this Deed of Commitment is a positive sign that we are committed to upholding international law and respecting human rights” said Calvin, external secretary of ZRO, after the signing ceremony. “Our internal policies will reflect the obligations of this Deed of Commitment” he concluded.
“Children in northeast India have been exposed to armed violence in many ways, including through recruitment and use by armed non-State actors. This commitment is a signal to others armed actors to take similar measures” noted Katherine Kramer, Geneva Call’s Programme Director for Asia.
In order to monitor their compliance with the Deeds of Commitment they have signed, and in addition to the self-monitoring reports sent by the ZRO, Geneva Call relies on the monitoring of local human rights organizations. The ZRO will also disseminate the norms of the Deed of Commitment to their members.
The ZRO has already signed Geneva Call’s two other Deeds of Commitment, namely the Deed of Commitment banning anti-personnel mines in 2009 and the Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence and against gender discrimination in 2013.
The ZRO is the third Indian armed non-State actor to sign the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. They add their voices to those of the Kuki National Organization (KNO) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Khole-Kitovi (NSCN-KK) to place child protection as a priority.