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Council holds interactive dialogue with Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict

MORNING

11 September 2012

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, and concluded its general debate on the annual report of the High Commissioner and the reports of her Office and the Secretary-General.

Ms. Zerrougui, presenting the report of her predecessor, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said that international justice could not replace, but rather enhance, national accountability mechanisms, specifically where national authorities were unable or unwilling to bring alleged perpetrators to justice. The challenge in conflict-affected developing countries was not always the lack of will, but often one of capacity. More had to be done to ensure accountability at the national level through the prosecution and investigation of perpetrators. Ms. Zerrougui urged donors to support conflict-affected countries, providing them with sustained and timely technical assistance. Lessons could also be learnt from the International Criminal Court concerning child protection and participation, as well as on reparations.

During the interactive dialogue with the Special Representative, delegations noted with concern the impact of armed conflict on children and stressed the flagrant violation of multiple rights, including the right to education, to which children employed in conflict were subjected. Speakers welcomed the International Criminal Court judgement on the Lubanga case and hoped that it would send a strong message. More work should address the issue of reparations and prevention, following the precedent of the International Criminal Court. Delegations called on Member States to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning children in armed conflict. Despite the adoption of instruments, serious challenges remained in order to ensure their implementation and the fight against impunity.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on children in armed conflict were Spain, Norway, European Union, Cuba, China, Germany, Switzerland, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Italy, Qatar, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab Group, Sudan, Ecuador, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Australia, Algeria, Jordan, Botswana, Thailand, Uruguay, Belgium, United States of America, France, Egypt, Pakistan, Portugal, Costa Rica, Venezuela, South Africa, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Mexico, United Nations Children’s Fund, Greece, Austria, Malaysia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the annual report of the High Commissioner, the reports from her Office and the report of the Secretary-General. A summary of the discussion and statements by the High Commissioner and United Nations Secretary-General delivered on Monday 10 September can be found here.

During the general debate, speakers welcomed the reports of the High Commissioner, her Office and the Secretary-General and noted the focus on the continuation of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law committed by armed Islamist groups and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in the North of Mali. Speakers noted challenges faced by journalists in many different countries, as well as the detention of people exercising their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly in Bahrain. Speakers also lamented that impunity continued concerning attacks on human rights defenders in Sudan who undertook international justice-related activities, and called on all States to acknowledge that it was their duty to ensure that human rights defenders were able to participate in the work of the Council without fear. Faith-based violence was a continuing scourge in many parts of the world where groups with religious agendas were perpetrating widespread human rights abuses with impunity.

Speaking this morning in the general debate were the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Reporters without Borders, International Commission of Jurists, Indian Council of South America, North-South XXI, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Verein Sudwind, Amnesty International, World Muslim Congress, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, United Nations Watch, and Liberation.

The Council will resume its work this afternoon at 3 a.m. to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict and to start a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on mercenaries, and the Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and non-recurrence.

General Debate on the Report of the High Commissioner and the Reports of her Office and the Secretary-General

Democratic Republic of the Congo said that the report of the High Commissioner noted the desertion of undisciplined members of the army and the creation of M23, but it could have also clearly and firmly condemned the grave, massive and unspeakable violations of human rights caused by the irresponsible behaviour of members of the M23 in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the State that instrumentalised it and international predators that pulled the strings behind the scenes, to pillage the country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo called on the Human Rights Council and the international community to very carefully monitor developments in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Action had to be taken now.

Rwanda said that yesterday afternoon it had presented its initial report to the Committee on the Right of Migrant Workers. Rwanda had also openly invited all United Nations mandate holders to visit the country. In a few months, it expected to receive an official visit from the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Rwanda reiterated its Government’s willingness and commitment to the promotion and protection of all rights for all its citizens, without discrimination.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues strongly supported the High Commissioner’s call to the Bahraini authorities to release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly. It was also deeply concerned with the continuation of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law committed by armed Islamist groups and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in the North of Mali.

Reporters without Borders said there were challenges to journalists in all countries. In Bahrain, Ahmed El-Radah was in jail since May 2012 and reprisals were taken against people who collaborated with United Nations mechanisms. In Japan, journalist Minoru Tanaka faced defamation charges and, in the United States, Robert Stolarik, after a violent assault, waited for his material to be returned. Belarus’ repressive legislation on the Internet continued to affect journalists and bloggers.

International Commission of Jurists said that impunity continued for attacks on human rights defenders in Sudan who undertook international justice-related activities, including in cooperation with United Nations mechanisms. The International Commission of Jurists called on the Council and Sudan to protect the rights of human rights defenders, initiate prompt, thorough and independent investigation into previous incidents, and to repeal laws that described human rights activities as spying.

Indian Council of South America, said that the High Commissioner’s report concerning the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives at the United Nations did not adequately recognise the right to self-determination. Treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination refused to exercise their mandate and reduced the mandate pursuant indigenous peoples fully recognised with the right to self-determination.

North-South XXI expressed hope that the High Commissioner would remind all States that their contribution to violence in Syria though the provision of weapons to non-State actors constituted a serious violation of international human rights law. What steps had been taken to enhance the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote a human rights-based approach to climate change?

International Humanist and Ethical Union said that faith-based violence was a continuing scourge in many parts of the world where groups with religious agendas were perpetrating widespread human rights abuses with impunity. In some States, people without religion were treated with indignity, disrespect, threats and violence. All States should do more to combat faith-based violence against religious minorities and the non-religious.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that impunity was at the very centre of gross human rights violations committed globally and more resources should be available to combat it. What steps was the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights taking with those States that persistently failed to revoke laws giving blanket immunity to State actors, especially those operating in conflict zones or disputed territories?

International Service for Human Rights called on all States to acknowledge that it was their duty to ensure that human rights defenders were able to participate in the work of the Council without fear. It also encouraged States to examine cases of reprisals included in the Secretary-General’s report and to use the panel and debate under Item 5 to follow-up on those cases.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about ongoing abuses in Arakan and Kachin in Myanmar, which it had extensively documented. Concern was also expressed about the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation throughout Mali and Human Rights Watch urged the Council to encourage the Office to set up a presence in the country, and to continue to report on the situation.

Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik shared concern regarding the implementation of the death penalty in the Gambia after a decades-long moratorium, as well as the increase in executions in some Middle Eastern countries. It urged the High Commissioner, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and all other related Special Procedures and treaty bodies to do all they could to stop the implementation of the death penalty.

Amnesty International reiterated the call for an official moratorium on the death penalty pending abolition. Last week, Amnesty International and 66 international and West African human rights organizations condemned the secret execution of nine persons in the Gambia in late August. Amnesty International expressed concern about institutional weakness in the Maldives, including those related to policing and security.

World Muslim Congress said that people increasingly demanded the fulfilment of fundamental rights. Without explicit human rights safeguards, policies intended to advance environmental or development goals could have a negative unintended impact. The World Muslim Congress called on the Council to address impunity in disputed territories, such as occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where crimes and violations could not be prosecuted in court.

Colombian Commission of Jurists said it had called upon parties to the peace process in Colombia to apply international human rights and humanitarian law in order to create the conditions for peace. The Colombian Commission of Jurists was concerned that the so-called “juridical framework for peace” allowed the Colombian State to decide not to investigate alleged crimes committed by guerrillas and public security forces, and it called on the Council to support Colombia during the process of investigating crimes and to request it to take specific actions.

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights expressed disappointment about the silence of the High Commissioner concerning the human rights violations in China, especially against Mongolians, Tibetans and Uyghurs. The lack of transparency, secrecy and ethnic discrimination in the application of the death penalty in China remained a major concern. The High Commissioner should call upon China to fulfil its obligations to international human rights standards and norms.

United Nations Watch thanked the Secretary-General for praising the Human Rights Council for suspending Libya and asked why the Council was tolerating Mauritania’s practice of slavery and racism, and the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. The High Commissioner failed to hold accountable other Council members who systematically committed massive human rights abuses, thus putting the legitimacy of the Council at stake.

Liberation said that the High Commissioner’s report neglected the human rights violations in South Yemen. States should appoint an International Commission of Investigation, urge the Government of Yemen to respect the right to self-determination of the people of the South, and provide a framework for negotiations between the South and the North in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Documentation

The Council has before it the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/21/38)

Presentation by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, presenting the report of her predecessor Radhika Coomaraswamy, stressed that international justice could not replace, but rather complement, national accountability mechanisms, specifically where national authorities were unable or unwilling to bring alleged perpetrators to justice. The challenge in conflict-affected developing countries was not always lack of will, but often one of capacity. During the period under review, important successes were achieved to prevent the commission of grave violations. Since last September, five new action plans to halt and prevent the recruitment and use of children were signed between the United Nations and parties in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia and Myanmar. In addition, last month, the then Transitional Federal Government of Somalia became the first party to sign an action plan to prevent the killing and maiming of children by its forces. Nevertheless, the signature of action plans was only the first step. Ms. Zerrougui emphasized that the achievement of accountability had to be a common effort. To be successful, prevention strategies also had to address the root causes of ‘voluntary’ recruitment in a holistic manner. Conflict-affected countries continued to lag behind in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, including on education, health and child mortality.

More had to be done to ensure accountability at the national level through the prosecution and investigation of perpetrators, Ms. Zerrougui said. Donors were therefore urged to support conflict-affected countries, providing them with sustained and timely technical assistance. Lessons could also be learnt from the International Criminal Court’s experience in terms of child protection and participation, as well as on reparations. On the prevention of child recruitment, Member States were called upon to ensure that children and young people were provided with alternatives to recruitment. Furthermore, long-term and sustainable support for the reintegration of conflict affected children was needed, including through swift support to the implementation of action plans between the United Nations and parties listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

Spain said it was aware of the complexity of this issue. Attacks against civilian populations, hospitals and schools had serious consequences and ensuring accountability for perpetrators was of central importance. Spain asked the Special Representative to elaborate on the impact of the ruling in the Lubanga case on the perception of child soldiers and her mandate and on the issue of reparations, which had been addressed by the International Criminal Court.

Norway welcomed the emphasis of the report on the use of explosive weapons near densely populated areas and encouraged further data collection on the humanitarian consequences of these weapons. Reparations should be part of the overall strategy, including measures for accountability. In any transitional process it was important to identify the different needs of children. Norway asked whether previous experiences could be useful.

European Union said that the approach to children and armed conflict should be comprehensive and reiterated its commitment to the implementation of Security Council resolutions and the Paris Commitments and Principles. The European Union welcomed the verdict in the trial of Thomas Lubanga and hoped that this precedent would have a positive impact on the region. Some armed groups seemed to resist all international pressure so what levers could the international community use and which preventive action or strategies targeting persistent perpetrators could they formulate?

Cuba said that the progress made had not been sufficient to address the most pressing needs of children. It was important to abide by the principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to address the root causes, including underdevelopment, which was the cause of many conflicts in the world today. There was no excuse for the unilateral bombing of towns and cities under the pretext of humanitarian action or protection of civilians in which many boys and girls were killed.

China recognized the progress made in the protection of children in armed conflict, including the new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and new developments in the Security Council, and said that perpetrators violating children’s rights were on the rise and had not been brought to justice. The Security Council must promote its primary purpose of maintaining international peace and security and all parties must resolve disputes in a peaceful manner to provide a safe and secure environment for children.

Germany said that the agenda of the protection of children in armed conflict was gaining more and more attention and asked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict about her future thematic priorities and her views concerning the greatest challenges for the protection of children in armed conflict. Which steps might be taken to improve prosecution and sanctioning of perpetrators, including in the framework of transitional justice, and where were possibilities for further cooperation with regional and international judicial systems?

Switzerland said that the ruling of the International Criminal Court on the Lubanga case, condemning Thomas Lubanga for the recruitment and use of child soldiers, was encouraging. Switzerland also expressed its sincere wishes to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in fulfilling the difficult mandate, and awaited her first report with impatience.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, welcomed the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General to her mandate. The security of children affected by armed conflict was essential to peace, security and development, and should be mainstreamed throughout the work of the Council. While States held the primary responsibility, the role of corporate actors should also be taken into account when talking about the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

Italy drew attention to the issue of the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups and invited the Special Representative to further elaborate on that issue, and provide examples of effective measures for the rehabilitation and integration of children. Accountability was also of crucial importance. The judgment of the International Criminal Court on the Lubanga case represented a landmark in that direction and an important legal basis on which national courts could build upon.

Qatar said that the violation of the rights of children in armed conflict threatened peace and security. The number of involuntary or forceful recruitments in conflict areas continued to increase despite international legal norms. Implementation and impunity remained significant challenges and, in this regard, the International Criminal Court’s ruling set an important precedent and sent a clear message. Addressing the underlying socio-economic conditions and fulfilling the rights of children even in conflict situations was crucial.

Sri Lanka reiterated that armed conflict not only led to violations of children’s rights but also deprived them of their basic socio-economic rights. Sri Lanka had undergone an internecine conflict for nearly three decades in which thousands of children had been forcibly conscripted by terrorist groups. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict and made their employment a punishable penal offence.

United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the exploitation of children in the context of armed conflict went against international norms and constituted a flagrant violation of human rights, worsening the situation of many children. The Arab Group hoped that forthcoming reports would tackle the situation in the Sudan with more detail. Challenges required more efforts from the international community and the Arab Group hoped that the recommendations included in the present report, such as the criminalisation of recruitment of children and prosecution of perpetrators, would be adopted.

Sudan said that South Kordofan was suffering from the practice of abducting children and making use of them in military operations and as cannon fodder. The Human Rights Council and the international community must take measures to address this situation. Demobilization of child soldiers was an essential element in the Darfur peace agreement and the Government had proceeded with the implementation of its provisions in this regard. The Council should ensure that the recommendations made by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General became a reality.

Ecuador said it was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had internal legislation punishing the use of children in armed conflict. Ecuador had also signed and endorsed other international instruments to this effect and guaranteed strict respect for international law protecting children and adolescents. Children were protected by all efforts to prevent their involvement in armed conflict. The draft convention on private military agents must be examined by the Human Rights Council; this was a legally binding document which enjoyed the support of Ecuador.

Morocco took note of the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict and said that the number of children involved in armed conflict was very high. Specific steps in favour of children must be agreed upon as well as special measures against those continuing with the violation of children’s rights in armed conflicts. In Morocco, the reform of the juvenile justice system and harmonization of the national laws ensured the protection of children and prohibited their recruitment and participation in the training activities by the military.

Azerbaijan said it concurred with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict that ensuring children’s access to education was a powerful means to protect them from becoming involved with armed forces or groups in conflict-affected countries or fragile situations. Azerbaijan also echoed the distinct and specific problems associated with explosive weapons where children not only became victims, but sometimes also became specific targets.

Australia said it was gravely concerned about the unacceptably high and growing number of persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children listed in the Secretary-General’s report, and joined him in his call for decisive and immediate action to halt these violations and to ensure that persistent perpetrators were brought to account. Australia also echoed the Secretary-General’s recommendation that all situations on which the United Nations was engaged should systematically address the need for child protection capacity.
Algeria wished the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict every success in her task. The particular importance given in the report to the African continent was rightly accorded, as it was particularly affected by the use of children in armed conflict. Algeria shared the view that prevention strategies had to adopt a holistic approach. It was also important to tackle the root causes of the voluntary recruitment of children. Attention should also be paid to the plight of children in situations of foreign occupation.

Jordan said that the report raised important issues concerning the rights of children amidst and after conflict, including reinforcing the protection of children from forced recruitment, which deprived children of enjoying their fundamental rights, including the right to life and right to an education, and led to multiple and flagrant violations of human rights. Jordan invited all States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children and armed conflict.

Botswana called on countries to ratify the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Schools and hospitals continued to be targeted and children visibly recruited into armed forces and thus deprived from education. Concerned parties identified in the report should prepare and implement time-bound action plans. Botswana welcomed the first International Criminal Court judgement on war crimes concerning the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, reparations for children and the restoration of their rights.

Thailand said that given the complex and specific nature of the various situations, there could be no one-size-fit-all approach, but a pragmatic outlook should be adopted to assess situations case-by-case on the basis of accurate information and bearing in mind the interests of children. Cooperation was vital in order to promote the implementation of the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict and Thailand would host a workshop later this month for ASEAN members, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict.

Uruguay took note of the call by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to set the minimum age of recruitment of children at 18 and appreciated her work to promote the signing of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which already had 147 States parties. Capacity building was essential in conflict zones, including on the aspects linked to juvenile justice. The work on prevention was equally important. What was the opinion of the Special Representative on the impact of the violent conflict in Syria and the participation of children in hostilities?

Belgium asked about the field missions envisaged by the Special Representative and whether the deterrent effect of the first judgement of the International Criminal Court on the issue of child recruitment, passed six months ago, was already noticeable in the political and military landscape of countries confronted with such violations. Belgium was particularly interested in ensuring that timely and reliable information on grave violations against children was available in emerging crises and asked about ideas in this regard.

United States expressed its appreciation for the progress made in the protection of children in armed conflict over the past six years, in particular the signing of numerous action plans, the freeing of over 10,000 child soldiers and the abolition of child soldiering by almost all national authorities. The United States welcomed the positive developments in Afghanistan, Chad, Somalia, South Sudan and Burma to stop the unlawful recruitment of children. How could the situation of children in armed conflict be improved and what was the best way to seek action against persistent perpetrators of offenses and abuses against children in armed conflict?

France said that there were approximately 250,000 child soldiers in the world. Mobilisation to fight this scourge had to continue. In collaboration with the office of the Special Representative and the United Nations Children’s Fund, France would be organizing the Fifth Forum on follow-up to the Paris Commitments on the Illegal Recruitment of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups. What actions did the Special Representative envisage to undertake as a matter of priority of her mandate?

Egypt said that combating impunity for violations of children’s rights was key to their protection. Egypt sought further clarification on the situation of children in rapidly evolving conflicts and the need for early deployment of specific child protection capacity. It also emphasized and reiterated its recurrent call to address the violations suffered by children in situations of protracted conflict and children living under foreign occupation, with particular reference to Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Pakistan thanked the outgoing Special Representative for her report and welcomed the new Special Representative. Pakistan reiterated its belief that it was imperative for the Special Representative to respect her mandate fully in the discharge of her duties, which clearly stated that the scope of the mandate covered only situations of armed conflict that were on the Security Council’s agenda or other situations which may be brought to the attention of the Security Council by the Secretary-General.

Portugal said that as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Portugal followed very closely the working group pursuant Resolution 1612 and the children in conflict agenda. The open debate to take place on 19 September in New York would give an opportunity to deepen the resolve to fight impunity. The issue of persistent perpetrators continued to be a cause of high concern to Portugal and asked the Special Representative for her views on ways to tackle this challenge.

Costa Rica said that, along other flag years in international law, in the future, 2012 would be known as the year when the International Criminal Court handed its first sentence concerning children and armed conflict. Costa Rica reiterated the importance for jurisprudence on the verdict in the Thomas Lubanga case, including the emphasis on reparations. Given the number of options and limited resources available, Costa Rica inquired how to optimise the impact and preventive effects of reparations?

Venezuela expressed concern for the situation of children who, lacking alternatives, voluntarily joined armed groups. Venezuela’s Constitution established that nobody could be subjected to forced recruitment and being 18 years of age was a requirement for military service. Venezuela had recently presented its report concerning the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict, which evidenced the fulfilment of its obligations concerning the protection of children.

South Africa said that notable progress had been made in the protection of children in armed conflict since the compilation of the first report on this subject in 1996. Those included the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council resolution on the subject. Despite the positive developments, children were still suffering grave violations which required the attention of the Council, particularly in the area of the participation of children in peace processes, successful reintegration and rehabilitation of demobilized child solders and others.

Russia said that the report submitted by the former Special Representative contained lacunae, for example there was insufficient clarity concerning recommendations addressed to the Human Rights Council, Special Procedures and the Security Council. Children continued to suffer during armed conflicts today. In Syria, the lives, safety and security of the children were threatened and Russia was concerned about reported use of children in military activities. Measures must be taken to remedy this situation.

United Kingdom appreciated the wide-ranging approach taken by the United Nations to tackle the issue of children and armed conflict and hoped that there would continue to be a high level of ambition for this agenda in the United Nations and elsewhere. Many challenges remained and many armed groups were resistant to the efforts and measures undertaken so far. The United Kingdom wished to know what new approaches and strategies might be used to address persistent violations of children’s rights.

Mexico congratulated the Special Rapporteur on her appointment and the submission of the report of her predecessor. Mexico agreed on the importance of the first sentence handed down by the International Criminal Court concerning the war crime of forced recruitment and use of child soldiers, which could serve to dissuade others from committing this crime as well as assist in developing this important area of international law. There was also a need to enhance the observance of the obligation under international humanitarian law to protect minors who were affected by or victims of hostilities.

United Nations Children’s Fund said that the decisions of the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone over the past year had set a precedent in validating the gravity of crimes against children in war and had created new opportunities for reparations to address the long-term impacts on children. UNICEF urged Member States to give priority attention to issues of critical concern to children by ratifying and implementing key child rights instruments.

Greece said that it fully supported the Special Representative’s appeal to all States to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, as well as her call for no recruitment under the age of 18. Could the Special Representative refer to examples of concrete effects on the ground as a result of the adoption of relevant resolutions by the Human Rights Council?

Austria asked the Special Representative where the priorities of her mandate would be and also to give further indication on how States concerned could adapt juvenile justice system to address the specific situation of child perpetrators who were also often victims at the same time. Austria hoped that the International Criminal Court ruling in the Lubanga case would influence the jurisprudence of other national and international courts dealing with child rights violations in the context of armed conflict. How could the international community and the United Nations better ensure early deployment of child protection capacities in rapidly evolving situations?

Malaysia was encouraged to note the significant progress being made in protecting the rights of children in armed conflict and ending impunity vis-à-vis the perpetration of grave violations against children. More however needed to be done and the Council must keep this issue high on its agenda. Malaysia agreed that States bore the primary responsibility for the protection of children in their territory and had promulgated in 2001 the Child Act that provided protection and assistance to all children without discrimination.

Democratic Republic of the Congo said that the Government had to combat the many grave violations such as the use of children as sexual slaves and human shields, sexual violence against children and recruitment of children into the armed forces. Child soldiers who were periodically demobilized came from the armed groups integrated into the national army, which itself was not recruiting children. The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict was a subject of ongoing dissemination in the military barracks throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Syria totally refuted the misleading accusation and allegations in the report of the Special Representative, who had put the responsibility for violence against children in Syria on military and security forces without providing any evidence or legal basis for such claims. The Special Representative also completely ignored the violations committed by the rebel and terrorist groups. Syria expressed hope that Ms. Zerrougui would continue to work in the sprit of independence and neutrality by taking into account all points of view.

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For use of the information media; not an official record