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SC/14394
18 December 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 seventh report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2020/1030), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, expressing grave concern at the disproportionate negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, urging all parties to the conflict to immediately end and prevent all abuses and 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;

Calling upon the parties to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;

Reaffirming the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict; stressing that all perpetrators of such acts must be swiftly brought to justice and held accountable, without undue delay, including through timely and systematic investigation, prosecution and, as appropriate, conviction and punishment, noting that some of the above- mentioned acts are prohibited and criminalized under Law No. 09/001 on the protection of the child, adopted by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 10 January 2009, including the recruitment and use of children by national armed forces or non-State armed groups; and further stressing the need to ensure that all survivors have access to justice and to provide remedies to those victims, including the medical and support services they need;

Further noting that on 19 April 2004 the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo referred the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and that some of the acts mentioned in 5 (a) may amount to crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a State party;

Condemning the recruitment and use of a high number of children by armed groups; noting the decrease in the number of children recruited; strongly urging all parties to the conflict to immediately and without preconditions release all children associated with them, hand over all children within their ranks to civilian child protection actors for their full reintegration through family- and community-based reintegration programmes and end and prevent further recruitment and use of children in line with their obligations as set out in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict;

Expressing deep concern at the high number of children killed and maimed, including as a direct or indirect result of ethnic strife, rising intercommunal violence, hostilities between parties to armed conflict, crossfire during armed clashes among armed groups or military operations by the FARDC, incidents of indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and explosive remnants of war, and urging all parties to comply with 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 grave concern about the ongoing prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children perpetrated by armed groups and government security forces; noting that such acts included forced marriage and sexual slavery; 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 by members of their respective forces or groups; stressing the importance of accountability for those who commit sexual and gender-based violence against children; and noting with concern the underreporting of the prevalence of cases of sexual violence against children due to fear of retaliation by perpetrators who sometimes live in or near the community, stigmatization and rejection by families and communities, widespread impunity and lack of adequate medical and support services for survivors;

Condemning the continuation of attacks on schools and hospitals, the majority of which were verified to be committed by armed groups; noting the significant decrease of such attacks during the reporting period; calling upon all parties to 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, as guided by the Safe Schools Declaration, which was endorsed by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July 2016;

Condemning instances of abduction of children, the overwhelming majority of which were committed by armed groups, including for the purposes of recruitment and use, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and child labour; noting the significant decrease of cases during the reporting period; and urging all relevant parties to immediately release without preconditions all abducted children to relevant civilian child protection actors

Expressing grave concern at incidents of denial of humanitarian access impacting 9,000 children, including attacks on humanitarian personnel and calling upon all parties to the conflict to allow and facilitate, in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access, consistent with United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance as well as 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;

Urging those who are or will be engaged in peace talks and agreements, including the FRPI process, to ensure that child protection provisions, including the release and reintegration of children, as well as provisions on the rights, well-being and empowerment of children, are integrated into the peace talks and agreements, as appropriate, with the support of the United Nations and guided by, inter alia, the Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in armed conflict;

To the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Welcoming the continued commitment of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to consolidate the gains of its action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence and the other four grave violations against children, to sustainably prevent the recruitment and use of children by its armed and security forces, including through the institutionalization of measures and mechanisms therein; welcoming in this regard the support provided by national and international actors aimed at strengthening the capacity of the FARDC to prevent and end the six grave violations against children; and urging the Government to accelerate the implementation of all aspects of the action plan, including those related to sexual violence against children as the FARDC and other security forces remain significant perpetrators of this violation;

Expressing concern about the continued deprivation of liberty of children for their alleged association with armed groups in violation of the directives issued in 2013 by the Minister of Defence and the Agence Nationale de Renseignement (ANR) to immediately hand over children formerly associated with armed groups to child protection actors to facilitate their return and full integration, stressing that children associated or allegedly associated with armed groups, including those arrested during military operations should be treated primarily as victims; urging in this regard the Government 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, in line with international law and that in actions concerning children the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, and calling upon the Government to prioritize their reintegration through family- and community-based reintegration programmes, guided by the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (the Paris Principles), which it has endorsed.

Recognizing progress made in relation to prosecuting perpetrators of the six grave violations against children, in particular recruitment and use and sexual violence; noting that prosecutions have included members of the Government security forces; urging the Government to pursue its efforts towards accountability, including through comprehensive, independent, timely and systematic investigation, and, as appropriate, conviction and punishment, of anyone found to be responsible, including those in positions of command, and to provide access to non-discriminatory and comprehensive specialized services, including psychosocial, health, legal and livelihood support and services to survivors, and welcoming the recent conviction of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka of the Nduma Defence of Congo armed group for war crimes including rape, sexual slavery and the recruitment of children;

Recalling the endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and calling for their swift implementation, and encouraging the Government to ensure that attacks on schools are investigated and that those responsible are duly prosecuted;

Encouraging the Government to focus on long-term and sustainable reintegration and rehabilitation opportunities for children affected by armed conflict through family- and community-based reintegration programmes that are gender- and age-sensitive, including equal 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, while taking into account the specific needs of girls and boys, to contribute to the well-being of children and to sustainable peace and security; and in that regard calling upon the Government to ensure that in all disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and peace agreements with armed groups, the rights and protection needs of children are made a priority, including the unconditional release of children by armed groups, with the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

To armed groups, including Nyatura, Mai Mai Mazembe and other Mai Mai groups, including Apa Na Pale, Kamuina Nsapu, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Congrès National pour le Renouveau et la Démocratie (CNRD)

Expressing its deep concern about the continued presence and ongoing destabilizing activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of a large number of armed groups and their harmful impact on children in particular Nyatura, Mai Mai Mazembe and other Mai Mai groups, including Apa Na Pale, Kamuina Nsapu, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Congrès National pour le Renouveau et la Démocratie (CNRD);

Further calling upon all non-State armed groups to publicly express their commitment to end and prevent all violations and abuses committed against children, and to expeditiously develop, adopt and implement action plans in line with Security Council resolutions 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011), 2068 (2012), 2143 (2014), 2225 (2015) and 2427 (2018) if they are listed in annex I to the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict; welcoming in this regard the CTFMR’s communication with armed groups’ commanders that has resulted in the release of hundreds of children; commending the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for supporting such communication; and acknowledging the signature of a unilateral declaration and a roadmap by 31 commanders of armed groups and factions committing to end and prevent child recruitment and use and other instances of the six grave violations against children;

Recalling in this regard that several of those non-State armed groups have been listed in annex I to the report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict for at least five years, including Allied Democratic Forces, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Force de résistance patriotique de l’Ituria (FRPI), Nduma défense du Congo, Nyatura, Union des patriotes congolais pour la paix, Mai-Mai Simba, Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain and Lord’s Resistance Army.

Recalling that the Security Council, by its resolution 2528 (2020), renewed until 1 July 2021 the measures as set out in paragraphs 1 to 6 of resolution 2293 (2016); and reaffirmed that measures described in paragraph 5 of resolution 2293 (2016) shall apply to individuals and entities as designated by the Committee, as set forth in paragraph 7 of resolution 2293 (2016) and paragraph 3 of resolution 2360 (2017), which include individuals or entities operating in the DRC and:

Recruiting or using children in armed conflict in violation of applicable international law;

Involved in planning, directing or participating in committing acts that constitute human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable, including those acts involving the targeting of civilians, including killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abduction, forced displacement and attacks on schools and hospitals;

Obstructing the access to or the distribution of humanitarian assistance in the DRC;

Further recalling that on 6 February 2020 the Committee added the name of one individual to its sanctions list, who was listed pursuant to paragraph 7 of resolution 2293 (2016), as detailed in the paragraph 5 (t) above; for engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability and security of the DRC; he committed, planned and/or directed the repeated targeting, killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abduction of children, as well as attacks on hospitals, in particular in Mamove, Beni territory, on 12 and 24 February 2019, as well as the continuous recruitment and use of children during attacks and for forced labour in Beni territory in the DRC since at least 2015.

Recalling the Working Group’s readiness to communicate to the Committee pertinent information with a view to assisting the Council in the imposition of targeted measures on persistent 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 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 against children, abductions, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support the release and 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.