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SC/14283
24 August 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 fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Somalia (document S/2020/174), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to the armed conflict in Somalia mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General, in particular Al-Shabaab and Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a as well as the Somali National Army, the Somali Police Force, Somali regional forces, and clan militias:

  • Expressing grave concern at the continuing high number of violations and abuses committed against children by all parties to the conflict in Somalia, and at the disproportionate negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, strongly condemning these 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, 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 the parties to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia (S/AC.51/2007/14, S/AC.51/2008/14, S/AC.51/2011/2 and S/AC.51/2017/2);
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict and stressing that all those responsible must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through comprehensive, independent, timely and systematic investigations, and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction;
  • Expressing deep concern at and condemnation of the high number of children recruited and used, of which the majority were recruited and used by Al-Shabaab, and strongly urging all parties to conflict, in particular Al-Shabaab, as well as the Somali security forces 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;
  • Expressing grave concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed groups or armed forces; urging the Federal Government of Somalia to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular that the arrest, detention and imprisonment of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time and that in actions concerning children the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, and to prioritize their reintegration, as guided by the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (Paris Principles), which it has endorsed, and urging the Federal Government of Somalia to implement the Standard Operating Procedures for the reception and handover of children separated from armed groups endorsed by Somalia in 2014, including by treating children associated with armed groups primarily as victims; and calling for sustainable and comprehensive reintegration programs;
  • Expressing deep concern at the high number of children killed or maimed, including as a result of crossfire, failure to take adequate precautions to protect children during armed conflict, indiscriminate attacks through improvised explosive devices, explosive remnants of war, targeted killings and airstrikes, and urging all parties to take special measures to protect children and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid and in any event minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects;
  • Expressing deep concern about the high number of cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children, including attempted rape and forced marriage, noting that, even though armed groups are responsible for the majority of such violations, Somali security forces and regional forces are responsible for one third of them, and strongly 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 and stressing the importance of accountability for those responsible for sexual and gender-based violence against children, particularly considering that most perpetrators remained at large or were released after the payment of compensation to the victims or their families or received minor sentences;
  • Strongly condemning the attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of international law, of which the majority were attributed to Al-Shabaab, and 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, as such, 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 international law, noting further the effect that attacks on schools and their use can have on the enjoyment of the right to education;
  • Strongly condemning the abduction of children, including for recruitment and use, and urging all relevant parties, in particular Al-Shabaab, to cease the abduction of children and all violations and abuses committed against abducted children, including forced marriage of girls to Al-Shabaab fighters, and to immediately release without preconditions all abducted children in their captivity to relevant civilian child protection actors;
  • Strongly condemning all incidents of denial of humanitarian access, including attacks on humanitarian personnel and looting of humanitarian goods, of which the majority are attributed to Al-Shabaab, and calling upon all parties to the conflict to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to children, consistent with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including respecting the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and to respect the work of all United Nations agencies and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction;
  • Welcoming the efforts made by the Federal Government of Somalia since the previous conclusions of the Working Group to end and prevent the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, in particular the signature by the Federal Government of Somalia in October 2019 of a road map to expedite the implementation of the Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Somali National Army and the Action Plan to halt the killing and maiming of children by the Somali National Army, both signed in 2012, and calling for the swift and effective implementation of these Action Plans and the road map by all Government security forces, including the Somali National Army and the Somali Police Force as well as at federal member state-level;
  • Noting the drafting of a National Strategy aiming at preventing child recruitment and facilitating the release and reintegration of children associated with armed groups and calling for its adoption and implementation; welcoming furthermore the issuance of a General Command Order by the Commander of the Somali National Army to prevent child recruitment and use within the Somali Armed Forces as well as all the six grave violations against children during military operations, and calling for its full implementation;
  • Welcoming the deployment of a verification and biometric registration programme in the Somali National Army and encouraging the Government to ensure that armed groups or militia integrating in its security forces are screened and that associated children are identified, released and reintegrated;
  • Calling on the Federal Government of Somalia to swiftly enact the Child Rights Bill ensuring that it criminalizes the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, as well as the Sexual Offences Bill; strongly encouraging it to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child; encouraging it to take into account child rights issues in the framework of the constitutional review process in line with its international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and also calling on the regional authorities to swiftly align regional legislation with Somalia’s international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • Welcoming the enactment of the Sexual Offences Law by Puntland in November 2016, which provides stronger protection of children against sexual violence and has led to increased accountability for sexual violence victims;
  • Noting the signature by the President of Puntland on 20 August of a decree pardoning 34 children who had previously received disproportionate sentences, considering they were children, including death sentences in violation of Somalia’s international legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and had been imprisoned since 2016 for their alleged association with Al-Shabaab, as well as the release of children from the Puntland forces during the reporting period, and their handover to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for reintegration support, as requested in the previous conclusions of the Working Group (S/AC.51/2017/2);
  • Calling upon all non-State armed groups to 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);
  • 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, noting the decrease of grave violations against children attributed to AMISOM, and welcoming the close cooperation between the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting and AMISOM on the protection of children in Somalia and calling upon AMISOM, the African Union and troop-contributing countries to investigate reports and allegations of violations and abuses against children, to ensure accountability for perpetrators and to further reinforce measures to end and prevent such violations and abuses against children, including fully implementing the Force Commander’s directive on the protection of children’s rights and complying with the standard operating procedures on the handover of children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups signed by the Federal Government of Somalia;
  • Recalling that the Security Council, in its resolution 2498 (2019), 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) concerning Somalia in accordance with paragraph 43 of resolution 2093 (2013), for actions that threaten the peace, stability or security of Somalia, such as:
    • Recruitment or use of children in armed conflict in Somalia by political or military leaders in violation of applicable international law;
    • 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;
    • Obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Somalia or access to or the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Somalia;
  • 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:

  • Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict;
  • Urging them to strengthen community-level engagement and protection and to condemn publicly and continue to advocate the ending and prevention of violations and abuses against children, notably those involving the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, abductions and denial of humanitarian access, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support the reintegration 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.