Public Statement by Chair of Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

SC/12896
30 June 2017

Public Statement by Chair of Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

At its 63rd meeting, on 18 April, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the fourth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Somalia (document S/2016/1098), agreed to address the following messages through a public statement issued by the Chair of the Working Group.

To all the parties to the armed conflict in Somalia, including the Somali National Army, Somali regional security forces, clan militias and, in particular, the armed groups operating in Somalia, including Al‑Shabaab and Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamaʽa:

(a)   Strongly condemning all violations and abuses committed against children in Somalia and their increase since 2015 and urging all parties to the conflict to immediately end and prevent all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children, abduction, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law;

(b)   Calling upon the parties to further implement all previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia (documents S/AC.51/2007/14, S/AC.51/2008/14 and S/AC.51/2011/2);

(c)   Welcoming the efforts made by the Federal Government of Somalia since the previous conclusions of the Working Group and calling upon the Government to swiftly and fully implement the two action plans signed in 2012, including by releasing immediately and without preconditions all children from their ranks and through the criminalization of the recruitment and use of children, the issuance of command orders prohibiting and sanctioning the recruitment and use of children and other violations and abuses against children in armed conflict, the establishment of age assessment mechanisms in their recruitment process and the screening of troops;

(d)   Also welcoming the ratification by the Federal Government of Somalia of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, strongly encouraging the Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict and urging federal and regional authorities to swiftly align federal or regional legislation with the international obligations of Somalia under the Convention;

(e)   Strongly urging all armed groups, in particular Al-Shabaab, to immediately and without preconditions release all children associated with them and end and prevent further recruitment and use of children, including re-recruitment of children who have been released;

(f)   Expressing deep concern about the high number of children killed or maimed, as a direct or indirect result of hostilities between parties to the armed conflict and of incidents of indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population, including those involving aerial bombardment, and calling upon all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality enshrined therein;

(g)   Expressing grave concern about the high number of cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children and urging all parties to the armed conflict to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children by members of their respective groups;

(h)   Calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, and to end and prevent attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel, as well as the military use of schools and hospitals, in violation of applicable international law;

(i)   Urging armed groups, in particular Al-Shabaab, to cease the abduction of children and all violations and abuses committed against abducted children and to immediately release without preconditions all abducted children in their captivity to relevant civilian child protection actors;

(j)   Calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to allow and facilitate full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to children, respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and respect the work of all United Nations humanitarian agencies and other humanitarian actors, without distinction;

(k)   Expressing grave concern about the detention of children on national security charges in violation of applicable international law, as well as about the use of detained children as spies in intelligence operations and counter-terrorism activities, and urging the Federal Government of Somalia to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular that the deprivation of liberty of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period and be guided by the best interests of the child;

(l)   Welcoming the willingness of the Federal Government of Somalia to address these issues and urging it to fulfil its commitments under the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (Paris Principles), which it has endorsed, and the standard operating procedures for the reception and handover of children separated from armed groups signed by the Federal Government of Somalia, including by treating children associated with armed groups primarily as victims;

(m)   Encouraging the Federal Government of Somalia to focus on sustainable reintegration opportunities for children affected by armed conflict, including the sensitization of communities to avoid the stigmatization of these children, while taking into account the specific needs of boys and girls, as well as of children with disabilities, orphans and unaccompanied children;

(n)   Welcoming the fact that, on 5 October 2016, 26 of 64 children detained since March 2016 for their alleged association with Al-Shabaab were released by the Puntland authorities and handed over to the United Nations, while condemning the sentencing to death and heavy prison sentences of children for their alleged association with Al-Shabaab, in violation of their obligations under international law;

(o)   Urging the Puntland authorities to review the heavy prison sentences against the children remaining in detention for their alleged association with Al‑Shabaab in accordance with applicable international law and to continue to work with the United Nations to support swift reintegration and reunification with their families in their regions of origin and rehabilitation;

(p)   Calling upon all non-State armed groups to publicly express their commitment and take active steps to end and prevent all violations and abuses committed against children and to enter into dialogue with the United Nations to prepare, adopt and implement without delay action plans to end and prevent violations and abuses against children in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2225 (2015);

(q)   Expressing deep concern over the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed against children and calling for an end to impunity by ensuring that all perpetrators of violations and abuses are swiftly brought to justice and held accountable, including through timely and systematic investigation and prosecution;

(r)   Welcoming the commitments made by the African Union and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to peace and security in Somalia and to the protection of children affected by armed conflict in Somalia and urging the African Union and troop-contributing countries to take all necessary measures to end and prevent violations and abuses against children, including fully implementing the Force Commander’s directive on the protection of children’s rights and complying with the standing operating procedures on the handover of children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups signed by the Federal Government of Somalia, and to ensure accountability for perpetrators by undertaking prompt, thorough and transparent independent investigations of any allegations of violations and abuses committed by their troops;

(s)   Recalling that the Security Council, in its resolution 2317 (2016), recalled the financial and travel measures imposed by resolution 2002 (2011), which apply to individuals and entities designated by the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea in accordance with paragraph 43 of resolution 2093 (2013), for actions that threaten the peace, stability or security of Somalia, such as:

(i)  Recruitment or use of children in armed conflict in Somalia by political or military leaders in violation of applicable international law;

(ii) Violation of applicable international law in Somalia involving the targeting of civilians, including children and women in situations of armed conflict, including killing and maiming, sexual and gender-based violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, and abduction and forced displacement;

(iii) Obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Somalia or access to or the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Somalia;

(t)   Expressing the readiness of the Working Group to communicate to the Security Council and to the Committee pertinent information with a view to assisting them in the imposition of targeted measures on perpetrators.

To community and religious leaders:

(a)   Emphasizing their important role in enhancing the protection of children in armed conflict;

(b)   Urging them to publicly condemn and continue to advocate ending and preventing violations and abuses against children, in particular those involving the recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, abductions, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.

For information media. Not an official record.