A United States-based human rights watchdog has demanded that Maoist in Nepal release thousands of child soldiers held for months in cantonments.
In a letter, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the new Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma to secure the Maoists' cooperation with the United Nations and child protection agencies to allow children to return home without further delay.
Bishwakarma is also a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist).
Out of the 30,000 Maoist cadres registered in the cantonment sites created under Nepal's Comprehensive Peace Agreement, an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 are believed to be children under the age of 18, HRW said.
"There is no excuse for letting children languish in cantonment sites month after month," said Jo Becker, children's advocate at Human Rights Watch.
"Under the terms of Nepal's peace agreement, these children should be released immediately so they can enter rehabilitation programs, get back into school, and rejoin their families."