|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference to Launch Secretary-General’s Annual Report
on Children and Armed Conflict
There was firm evidence that both pro-Government elements and opposition forces in Libya were responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers, a war crime, Special Representative Radhika Coomaraswamy said at Headquarters today as she released the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.
While it had occurred after the reporting period, credible information had been received on the recruitment and use of children, as well as other violations, said Ms. Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, urging both parties to stop such practices immediately.
The report expressed the Secretary-General’s concern over the increase in attacks on schools and hospitals, a pattern found in 15 of the 22 counties listed, she said, adding that her Office would be asking the Security Council for a new mechanism to “trigger” referral to the International Criminal Court. The Council had already imposed sanctions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Secretary-General recommended that it take more such measures where children were concerned.
Containing an annual list of parties that recruit and use, kill and maim, or commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children during conflict, the report also provides information on grave violations, and focuses on action plans aimed at halting them. Grave violations had occurred in 22 countries, and four new groups had been added to the “list of shame”, she said. “Once a party is listed, we can begin discussions with them to enter into an action plan for the release of children, with the possibility of sanctions at a future date.”
Turning to the specifics of the report, she said parties to the conflict in Yemen, namely the Al-Houthi group and pro-Government tribal militia, had been listed in the report’s annexes for the first time. In Iraq, the Al-Qaida-linked group Birds of Paradise and the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization, had also been added to the list.
However, some progress had also been achieved, said Ms. Coomaraswamy, noting: “It was a mixed year.” An action plan signed by Afghanistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs in January agreed to release children from that country’s national security forces and established vetting procedures, giving the United Nations access to previously restricted barracks and training facilities. In the Philippines, negotiations had been opened with the New People’s Army and progress on an action plan had been made with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It aimed to complete the registration of all children associated with that group in the next nine months.
As for other non-State parties, she said that while actions plans had been signed with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2009, many children had been separated from the group, but several hundred were believed still to be in its hands, she said, noting that her Office was continuing with negotiations. Children were also being recruited by all seven listed parties to conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic, she said, deploring also the “terrible” instances of children being used as suicide bombers in Pakistan and Iraq.
When asked about the situation in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, she said an action plan was still being processed for Myanmar with regard to the release of children, and a new report on Sri Lanka had recently been issued.
Asked what effect listing the offending parties would have, the Special Representative said that appearing on the list served as a catalyst. Once a party was listed, the United Nations was mandated to negotiate an action plan to get children released. Such an action plan allowed the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism.
When asked to clarify the evidence from Libya, she said there were reports of children being used by both pro-Government militia and rebel forces, adding that her Office would be sending advisers to make clear that the recruitment of children was a war crime and should be stopped.
Asked how the rebels’ use of child combatants could complicate the dynamics of the Security Council, if it was supporting the rebels, she replied: “They should tell them not to do it.”
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