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SC/14269
30 July 2020

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

The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the third report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq (document S/2019/984), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties:

  • Reaffirming the importance of the stability, prosperity, and security of Iraq for the people of Iraq, the region and the international community, particularly in light of Iraq’s territorial victory over Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh);
  • Expressing grave concern at and its strongest condemnation at the scale and nature of violations and abuses that have been committed against children in Iraq during the reporting period, and urging all parties to immediately end and prevent all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law;
  • Calling upon them to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Iraq (documents S/AC.51/2011/6 and S/AC.51/2016/2);
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children affected by armed conflict and calling on Iraq to continue to address impunity by, inter alia, efforts to strengthen its national accountability mechanisms, including ensuring that all those responsible for violations and abuses against children must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through timely and systematic investigation, and as appropriate, prosecution and conviction; welcoming in this respect the establishment following Security Council resolution 2379 (2017) of the United Nations Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (UNITAD) to support Iraq’s domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by ISIL in Iraq;
  • Expressing deep concern at and its condemnation of the recruitment and use of children in violation of applicable international law; strongly urging to release immediately and without preconditions all children associated with them, to hand them over to relevant civilian child protection actors in coordination with the Iraqi respective authorities, and to end and prevent the further recruitment and use of children; expressing concern about the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed forces or armed groups or for the association or alleged association of their parents or relatives, including with armed groups who are designated by the Security Council as terrorist, and urging all parties to the conflict to treat associated children, including those who may have committed crimes, primarily as victims of recruitment and use, to work to ensure their full reintegration through family- and community‑based reintegration programmes, including access to health care, psychosocial support and education programmes, as well as raising awareness and working with communities to avoid stigmatization of these children and facilitate their return, to provide access to the United Nations to all detention centres and any other facilities, in which children are held, in coordination with the Iraqi respective authorities, and to ensure that, where children face prosecution for allegedly committing crimes, those prosecutions are carried out with respect for the rights of the child; and urging the relevant parties and Governments, including the countries of origin of foreign children deprived of liberty in Iraq, to cooperate with the United Nations and the Iraqi authorities to seek rights-based durable solutions, taking into account the principle of the best interests of the child;
  • Expressing grave concern at the high levels of children killed and maimed as a direct or indirect result of hostilities during the reporting period, of incidents of indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population, including those involving shelling and aerial bombardment, of improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, and of extra-judicial killings, torture and physical ill-treatment; and calling upon all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, and in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution as well as the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks;
  • Expressing deep concern at cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against girls and boys, particularly by ISIL, during the reporting period, and urging all parties 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;
  • Strongly condemning the attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of international law, during the reporting period, and calling upon them to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, as such and to end and prevent disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks or threats of such attacks against those institutions and their personnel, as well as the military use of schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international law;
  • Strongly condemning the denial of humanitarian access, and calling upon all parties to allow and facilitate safe, timely, and unhindered humanitarian access to children, including to children in internally displaced peoples camps or detention independent of their legal status, consistent with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid, to respect international humanitarian law, and to respect the work of all United Nations agencies and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction;
  • Underlining the importance of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognizing that a strong focus is needed on combatting poverty, deprivation and inequality to prevent and protect children from all violations and abuses in the context of armed conflict in Iraq and to promote the resilience of children, their families and their communities, and the importance of promoting education for all and peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; and calling on the international community to remain strongly committed to providing support to Iraq for its humanitarian, stabilization, reconstruction, and development efforts.

To Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant:

  • Condemning in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent violations and abuses and extreme violence committed against children, including children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities, by ISIL, including their killing and maiming, recruitment and use, abduction and rape, and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access, noting that such violations and abuses may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity; 
  • Urging that ISIL immediately:
  • Cease all attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects, including those resulting in the killing and maiming of children, and comply fully with international humanitarian law by, inter alia, putting an end to any targeting of the civilian population, especially children, as well as to disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks in populated areas, including through terror tactics, attacks by suicide bombers or any other forms of extreme violence or the indiscriminate use of weapons, in particular improvised explosive devices, and any use of weapons prohibited by international law;
  • Cease and prevent the recruitment and use of children in violation of applicable international law, including through abduction, end the military training of children, and release without preconditions all children who remain under their control;
  • Cease the rape and other forms of sexual violence, such as child, early and forced marriage, sexual slavery and human trafficking for sexual exploitation, including against children belonging to ethnic and religious minorities;
  • Cease the abduction of children and all violations and abuses committed against abducted children, including girls, and release without preconditions all abducted children, including those whose whereabouts remain unknown, and allow for swift family reunification in the bests interests of the child or provide information as to their fate if no longer alive; 
  • Strongly condemning the denial of humanitarian access, including through attacks against humanitarian personnel and facilities, and stressing that the denial of humanitarian access, including by deliberately impeding humanitarian access, can constitute a breach of international humanitarian law.

To the Government of Iraq:

  • Recognizing the efforts by the Government of Iraq to address the security threats and challenges in maintaining law and order in the country;
  • Stressing that the Government retains the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians, including children, and noting in this regard that Iraq is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and noting in this regard, in all actions concerning children, the best interest of the child must be a primary consideration;
  • Welcoming the dialogue on an Action Plan on ending and preventing recruitment and use by the Popular Mobilization Forces and the significant decrease in cases of recruitment and use by the Popular Mobilization Forces and Government forces; calling on the Government to release children associated with the Popular Mobilization Forces, to ensure their reintegration in cooperation with civilian child protection actors, and to engage with tribal mobilization groups and religious leaders; and calling on the Government, including through engagement with the United Nations, to develop a comprehensive national strategy to prevent all six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict;
  • Welcoming the adoption of Iraq’s national child protection policy in December 2017, with a focus on preventing recruitment and use and ensuring the release of children; calling for its full and effective implementation; welcoming the steps taken towards the development of a comprehensive child rights law, inter alia criminalizing child recruitment, and calling for its swift adoption;
  • Calling upon the Government, without prejudice to children’s association or alleged association to armed groups, to issue civil documentation, such as birth certificates and identification cards, so as to enable children to have access to public assistance and basic services, including access to formal schooling, and to identify practical solutions to overcome existing administrative and security barriers; welcoming the Government’s special administrative process to register children born of rape and encouraging its deployment, without delay, at the national level;
  • Calling upon the Government, in close coordination with and with the support of the United Nations and relevant child protection actors, to ensure the reintegration of children formerly associated with parties to the conflict, including children associated with ISIL, and to treat them primarily as victims;
  • Calling upon the Government to consider non-judicial measures as alternatives to prosecution and detention that focus on the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups, including psychosocial support, and calling upon the Government to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, taking into account that the deprivation of liberty for children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period;
  • Expressing grave concern over the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of children in detention for association or alleged association with armed groups or on national security charges, and recalling the international obligation of the Government to ensure adherence to the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Urging the Government to strengthen the provision of and access to specialized and gender-sensitive services for victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence in armed conflict, including those from ethnic and religious minority groups, and to fight and prevent the stigmatization of victims, and stressing the importance of accountability for those responsible for sexual and gender-based violence against children;
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children, and urging the Government to end impunity by ensuring that all such perpetrators, including members of its own security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces, are brought to justice without undue delay through timely and systematic investigation and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction, and to exclude those found guilty from any Government security forces;
  • Calling upon the Government to ensure that all children, irrespective of their perceived status or affiliation, benefit from humanitarian access without discrimination and according to the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality and independence, including by reducing bureaucratic impediments to access.

To community and religious leaders:

  • Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children and armed conflict;
  • Urging them to strengthen community-level protection and 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, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks and threats of attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions and denial of humanitarian access, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support re-integration of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of these children.
For information media. Not an official record.