September 12, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Sunday denied having child soldiers in its ranks and called on the Sudanese government to allow UN and international groups to visit its fighters jailed in Khartoum prisons.
In a speech at the celebration marking the completion of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in El-Fasher last Wednesday, Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir announced the release of child soldiers from rebel groups including those arrested during Gouz Dango battle in South Darfur in April 2014.
"None of JEM forces nor its members held in the jails of the regime are under the age of eighteenth. The Movement reiterates its call for the competent authorities to visit its positions without prior notice to inspect it and to verify what it says," said JEM spokesperson Gibril Adam Bilal in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday.
Bilal further said that the government is now repeating the same scenario as it did in May 2008 after JEM attack on the Sudanese capital when the security forces arrested some homeless children and presented them to the media as rebel fighters taking part in the "Long Arm" operation.
The government, JEM and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) met recently in Addis Ababa but failed to conclude a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access agreements.
The two agreements are seen as part of confidence building measures before to hold an inclusive constitutional conference in Khartoum.
Bilal referred to the decision they recently made to release all the prisoners they detain and called on the government to free JEM members jailed in the Sudanese prisons, saying it would contribute to create a conducive environment for negotiations and dialogue.
Also, he called on the United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the right groups to request the regime to disclose the whereabouts of its members apprehended during the Gouz Dango battle.
Since several years, JEM announced its adherence to the international norms and standards governing the protection of children in armed conflicts.