COUNCIL CONTINUES INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN AND CHILDREN IN CONFLICT
13 March 2014
During its noon session, the Human Rights Council continued its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, Ms. Marta Santo Pais, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui. A summary of the first part of the dialogue, including presentations by the Special Representatives, can be read here.
In the discussion, the specific vulnerability of some children, such as migrants, girls or children with disabilities, had to be taken into account, speakers said. Governments were urged to pay more attention to child trafficking, which was a crime against humanity and a true form of slavery, a speaker said. States had to comprehensively prevent school violence, another speaker said. Questions were put to Ms. Santo Pais on how her recommendations could be integrated into their national systems, how to involve children and young people in consultative processes and what improvements could be made for children specifically under conditions of prolonged foreign occupation. The importance of promoting partnership, coordination and technical assistance among the international, regional, and specialized stakeholders in fighting violence against children was stressed.
In statements on children and armed conflict, some delegations highlighted the plight of children in the Syria conflict where since the civil war began three years ago more than ten thousand boys and girls had been killed and more than 1.2 million had become refugees. The situation of children in Central African Republic conflict was also raised as a cause for deep concern. Measures to end the recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen were discussed. Several speakers referenced the new Arms Trade Treaty, which could be a key tool in protection of children in conflicts. Concern was expressed about reports of sexual violence committed against children in armed conflict and the military use of schools, which was often underreported. The importance of restorative justice programs for child offenders was noted, as the need for reintegration and rehabilitation of children who had taken part in armed conflicts.
Speaking in the discussion were Palestine, Costa Rica, Angola, International Development Law Organization, Lithuania, Albania, Belgium, Mexico, Morocco, Syria, Ireland, United States, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ireland, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates, Holy See, Germany, Djibouti, South Africa, Nepal, France, Argentina, Thailand, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Luxembourg, Malta, International Committee of the Red Cross, China, Switzerland, Sudan, South Sudan, Monaco, Indonesia, Russia, Viet Nam, Botswana, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, Armenia, Egypt and Bahrain.
The Network for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Latin America and Institute of the Commissioner for Human Rights of Azerbaijan also took the floor.
Qatar, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in the right of reply.
The Council will continue its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child this afternoon, holding at 3 p.m. a panel discussion on empowering children to claim their rights.
The Council has before it the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui (A/HRC/25/46).
The Council has before it the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (A/HRC/25/47).
Clustered Interactive Dialogue
Palestine regretted that despite outcries by the international community, civil society and world public opinion, Israel continued to ignore its obligations under international law, and Palestinian children continued to be victims of Israel’s illegal policies, and practices of assault, harassment and intimidation by Israeli settlers. Palestine asked what improvement could be made for children specifically under conditions of prolonged foreign occupation. Costa Rica welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty in April 2013 and called on the international community to ratify it, as it would be a key tool in protection of children in conflicts because weapons indirectly or directly gave rise to serious acts of violations against women and children. Angola said it had made child protection its priority for 2013 to 2017, reinforced the capacities of the National Institute of the Child, created the National Council for Children and enacted a series of laws guaranteeing the protection of children and on education programmes. As a president of the Great Lakes Region, it had made efforts to bring about peaceful settlements of the conflicts in the region, cooperating with the countries concerned and the United Nations to demobilize and prevent the use of minors in armed conflict.
International Development Law Organization said access to justice was crucial to the enjoyment of children’s rights. In practice, even where an abused child had a right to vindicate his or her rights, he or she would not identify it as a rights violation. Lithuania said it considered action plans as a key tool to end recruitment of children, but their implementation required political will as well as resources and systemic engagement with non-state actors. Lithuania encouraged the Special Rapporteur to conclude action plans with non-state armed groups and appreciated attention to the use of schools by military.
Albania said it was deeply concerned by the reports of sexual violence committed against children in armed conflict which were often underreported. It reiterated that the International Criminal Court played a critical role in fighting immunity, although serious crimes should primarily dealt with by the national judicial systems.
Belgium expressed support for the inclusion of the elimination of all forms of violence against girls in the post-2015 development agenda and said different mechanisms of restorative justice were available in juvenile proceedings at a national level. While welcoming progress in addressing the situation of children in armed conflict, Belgium expressed dismay at ongoing acts of sexual violence committed against children, as well as for attacks against schools and hospitals. Mexico said that full respect for the rights of children had to be founded on conditions of peace and were particularly violent during armed conflict, it spoke of its hopes for the Arms Trade Treaty and supported national and international measures to reintegrated children who had took part in armed conflict. Morocco expressed concerned about the situation of children who continued to be victims of serious violations to their fundamental rights in situations of armed conflict. Morocco stressed the need for financial resources to sustain national projects.
Syria said it had cooperated with the Special Representative and presented information about crimes committed by terrorists groups; it was dismayed by the accusation concerning alleged acts committed by the Government. Ms. Zerrougui had not been objective but, rather, had decided to name and shame Syria, putting into question the value of cooperation with the mandate holder. Syria also condemned the allegations of the Qatari delegations, made as the country continued to support terrorist activities. Peru said it had adopted an array of measures, such as the creation of a registry to provide statistical information, an emergency hotline, and special units for child victims of abuse. It asked how the Council could best address the negative consequences of arms transfers on human rights in situations of armed conflict. United States recalled States’ responsibilities to keep children safe. It remained deeply concerned about the situation in Syria, where since the civil war began more than ten thousand boys and girls had been killed and more than 1.2 million had become refugees. The United States also expressed concerned about the use of child soldiers in Somalia and minors fleeing the Central African Republic. It agreed on the importance of restorative justice programs for child offenders.
Democratic Republic of the Congo said that children’s rights in the country were under threat because of numerous armed conflicts, and the Government had to combat violations such as child enlistment in armed forces and mines and their use as sexual slaves and human shields. Perpetrators of grave violations of children’s rights did not benefit from amnesty and could not be members of armed or police forces. Ireland agreed that restorative justice and informal conflict resolution mechanisms could play an important role in the protection and reintegration of children; they should not preclude children from accessing formal justice system and should never jeopardize their rights. Ireland asked about progress made in the implementation of the action plan for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to end the recruitment and use of children by national security forces, and sexual violence. Ecuador said its constitution recognized child rights as essential elements in the construction of democracy and inclusive society and had adopted the National Agenda for Intergenerational Equality which provided for shared responsibility between the State and family.
United Arab Emirates said that the evidence of mistreatment and ill treatment of children in the report of the Special Rapporteur was alarming, and that very few denounced the violations and very few perpetrators were held accountable. Violence against children could not be addressed without taking into account the context in which they grew up.
Holy See expressed concern about the lack of understanding of the dimensions of crimes of sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and called for more attention by governments to human trafficking, which was a crime against humanity and a true form of slavery. Family breakdown was a serious contributing factor to the violence against children and the international community must enact suitable policies to support and strengthen family. Germany said that children today remained a deliberate target of violence and welcomed the increased number of ratifications of the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. Germany was deeply concerned about increasing attacks on hospitals and schools in conflict-affected areas, most notably in Syria and asked about practical activities that could be undertaken by parties to conflict to reduce the military use of schools.
Djibouti said that the protection of children was one of its main concerns. It was pleased to have been among the first countries to have ratified the Convention on the rights of the child and was trying to implement recommendations issued by the Committee. South Africa said the work of law enforcement officers in protecting the most vulnerable had been strengthened through the establishment of a special offenses court. Restorative justice remained key in the context of juvenile justice. Child trafficking remained a threat to society worldwide and South Africa adopted single status to deal with trafficking holistically and comprehensively. Nepal said that violence committed against children was a threat to society, justice, sustainable development and inclusive democracy. Nepal had undertaken legal, policy, and institutional measures for the prevention and elimination of violence against children, including the explicit criminalization of all forms of violence. Significant progress in rehabilitating and reintegrating conflict affected children after the official end of the ten year armed conflict had also been made.
France welcomed progress in the area, ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and highlighted the need for national strategies. Regarding restorative justice, it asked the Special Rapporteur to provide examples of good practice. Sexual violence was in particularly a cause of concern. France called on all States to support the Paris Principles. Argentina attached importance to the protection of children and their rights. Argentina’s legal system reaffirmed the rights of boys, girls and adolescents to physical and moral integrity. Argentina said the recruitment of child soldiers was unacceptable and stressed its concern about attacks to schools and hospitals. Rehabilitation programmes which sought to avoid repeated victimization and recruitment were necessary. Thailand agreed that in protecting children from violence, including when children were involved in the criminal justice system, it was necessary to take gender- and child-sensitive approaches that placed human dignity at the heart. Thailand had amended its juvenile and family court and procedures act in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and established training centres based on the concept of restorative justice.
Côte d'Ivoire said that sadly armed conflict continued to destroy the lives of children and threaten their rights. Despite the threat, there was progress in the fight against children in armed conflict. Côte d'Ivoire took note of the concerns raised about sexual violence against girls and the way the justice system handled such cases. Luxembourg said that throughout the world thousands of children continued to be abducted, killed, abused, raped or deprived of their education. The recent Security Council resolution that highlighted the dramatic situation of children in Syria should encourage all parties and the authorities of Damascus especially to do everything they could to ensure that humanitarian access was allowed to all the populations that required it, especially children.
International Committee of the Red Cross said that in some contexts, children were unlawfully recruited by armed forces or armed groups while at school and as a result, parents may keep their children at home and teachers may stop coming to work. It had followed with interest initiatives to prevent schools and universities from becoming part of the battlefield. Sovereign Military Order of Malta said that numerous international law instruments, universal and regional, protected children against violence. Implementation of those standards was the direct responsibility of States individually and collectively. The fundamental role of families in preventing violence and reintegrating child victims of violence was stressed, as well as the importance of restorative justice.
China said it had taken comprehensive measures at the legislative and judicial levels and condemned all violence against children. The Government continued to improve specific systems of protection for the most vulnerable children from violence and threat of violence and supported the concept of restorative justice. Togo said that since 2007 it had a Children’s Code that protected children against all forms of violence. Togo realized that certain social and cultural practices did exist that directly affected the rights of children, such as child marriage, infanticide, female genital mutilation and so-called sorcery children.
Switzerland said that the report of the Special Representative on violence against children demonstrated that there were ways of protecting the rights of children in the judicial system. How did Ms. Pais suggest integrating her recommendations in national systems and how did she intend to involve children and young people in consultative processes at the national level? The reintegration of victims of sexual violence was a particular challenge. Sudan said children in Sudan were one of the most vulnerable groups and had been included in texts adopted nationally such as those criminalizing and prohibiting the recruitment of children for military operations. A minimum age for entering the military had been set at 18 years, and there was a database registering demobilized child soldiers. Rebel groups continued to practice adoption and forced mobilization, which was forcing Sudan to pull its efforts to bring those groups back to the negotiating table. South Sudan spoke about its strategy of demilitarization of child soldiers, which started in 2001 when Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army became the first rebel movement globally to initiate demobilization of children, with approximately 18,000 children demobilised by 2004. South Sudan welcomed the guidelines on the military use of schools. In 2012 South Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army issued a military directive on the protection of the child.
Monaco stressed that children constituted a priority for the Principality of Monaco. Legislation adopted in 2007 reinforced the combat of crimes and offenses against children. In 2011 additional legislation addressed prevention and elimination of violence. Indonesia, alongside Norway and the Special Representative, said it was at the forefront of the promotion of restorative justice for children, with the view that it was imperative to shift from a retributive to a restorative approach. Russia hoped that interaction between the Special Representative and Syria would be strengthened and would allow Syria to implement a series of recommendations. Russia acknowledged measures taken by Syria to soften the impact of the conflict on children, including preventing their participation in conflict operations. It called on the Special Representative to note violations committed by terrorist groups which qualified as war crimes.
Viet Nam said a comprehensive approach to prevent children from being affected by armed conflict should include sustainable development, poverty eradication, the rule of law and respect for human rights, reintegration and rehabilitation of children. Botswana welcomed the new commitments to end the recruitment and use of children in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Yemen. It lamented continued deprivation of children of their right to life, physical integrity and basic social and economic rights in prolonged conflicts such as in Syria and the Central African Republic.
Venezuela said it had established specialized mechanisms to guarantee rights for all persons on its territory and its children could count on the effective application of the Organic Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents.
Equatorial Guinea considered the integration of restorative justice into the protection of children was a model for conflict resolution. In terms of seeking true participation of children, the availability of social structures should be combined with development goals.
Armenia stressed the need to promote restorative justice for children, for which it had set up thirteen Community Rehabilitation Centres in different regions in the country facilitating reintegration of juveniles. It underlined the authorities of Azerbaijan had responsibility to provide accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in connection with displacement of Armenians in the late 1980s and 1990s. Egypt highlighted the need to attain the full potential of partnerships between Governments and civil society in areas of awareness-raising, addressing root causes or supporting useful models of restorative justice, the importance of family as the fundamental unit of society for prevention of violence and of updating national plans of action, as well as recognizing specific vulnerability of some children to violence. Bahrain was thankful for the highlighting of the urgent need to put an end to violence against children, all forms of which Bahrain condemned. International cooperation had to be strengthened to put an end to violence against children and end impunity.
Network for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Latin America said that violence against children was a main debt being incurred against the coming generations. States had to promote a comprehensive approach to the prevention of school violence against boys, girls and adolescents. Violence between peers was a major problem for boys, girls and adolescents. Institute of the Commissioner for Human Rights of Azerbaijan said people worldwide had hoped that the twenty-first century would bring mankind peace, security and prosperity, but unfortunately numerous natural and manmade disasters, wars, armed conflicts, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing resulted in huge loss of life and gross violations of human rights, with women and children suffering first. All children were our children, it said.
Right of Reply
Qatar, speaking in the right of reply, said that it seemed the Syrian delegation was playing a comedy in the Council and their statement distorted the real state of affairs. The international community had turned its back on the Syrian regime because of credible reports condemning the horrible violations and assassinations of those who were demanding their liberty. Why had the Syrian delegation ignored the fact that several thousand children had been forcibly displaced, along with their families? The only thing uniting both countries today was their presence in this room. Qatar would support the Syrian people.
Syria, speaking in the right of reply, said that the Qatari delegation had demonstrated the hypocrisy of a Government that had spared no financial effort to support terrorist organizations committing atrocities and taking the lives of children. Qatar was shedding crocodile tears while claiming to be part of the international community’s condemnation, it said. Responding to the statement made by the United States, Syria said it condemned its insistence on continuing to spread lies and support terrorist groups. If the United States was sincere about the desire to put an end to the plight of the Syrian people they could contribute by ending hostilities and the sanctions that restricted the Syrian people’s access to food and medicines.
Armenia, speaking in the right of reply, said that it was deeply concerned that the lives of children had become a tool for manipulation. Armenia had reiterated many times its readiness to hold an investigation into the mentioned cases, and the fact that such an independent investigation had not been conducted and had been avoided by Azerbaijan demonstrated who stood behind those violations and false accusations.
Azerbaijan, speaking in the right of reply, said it was regrettable that Armenian officials used Council sessions for groundless statements. It was a well-known fact that it continued to suffer as a result of Armenian aggression. The legality of the separatist entity by Armenia in Azerbaijan had been repeatedly stated at the international level and had not been recognized. Armenian officials continued to lie and mislead the international community.
Qatar, speaking in a second right of reply, said it was tired of the irony and attitude of Syria over the past three years, and its distortion of reality. The rights of the Syrian people continued to be violated by the current terrorist regime. The international community should shoulder its responsibilities and ensure respect for the rights of a people suffering under the yoke of oppression and systematic killings. Qatar and the international community would work to ensure those rights were upheld.
Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, recalled that Nagorno-Karabakh had formed part of historical Armenia for many years. The territory had been integrated into Azerbaijan illegally through a violent process. Armenia had never been part of the Soviet Union, but an independent state recognized by the international community. The territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh had become a buffer zone.
Syria, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the philosophy behind freedom, democracy and the aspirations of people in rebellion which everyone kept hearing about from representatives of the Qatari authorities all fell to the ground when its interference into the affairs of Syria and of other Gulf States was looked at. Terrorism and massacres in Syria were ending its future.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that Armenia’s statement was once again based on falsified facts and anecdotes. It was an abuse of the right to speak. It was curious that Armenia had the insolence to speak about peace and human rights. Armenia had purged both its own country and Azerbaijan of all non-Armenians, it said.
For use of the information media; not an official record