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SC/14431
5 February 2021

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 Mali (S/2020/1105), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to armed conflict in Mali

Strongly condemning all violations and abuses committed against children by all parties to the conflict in Mali, and urging all parties concerned to immediately end and prevent all violations and abuses 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 Mali (document S/AC/.51/2018/1);

Noting with concern that insecurity and access restrictions to conflict-affected areas during the reporting period presented challenges to the verification of violations and abuses against children and that the information contained in the report of the Secretary-General therefore does not reflect the full impact of armed conflict on children in Mali during the reporting period;

Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict, stressing that all perpetrators of the six grave violations must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through timely and systematic investigation and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction, and underscoring that all victims must be ensured access to justice and to the medical and support services that they need;

Noting that, on 13 July 2012, the transitional authorities of Mali referred the situation in Mali since January 2012 to the International Criminal Court, to which Mali is a State party, and that some of the above-mentioned acts may amount to crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;

Underscoring that child protection provisions should be fully taken into account by all stakeholders engaged in the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, as appropriate;

Expressing deep concern at and condemnation of the continued increase of recruitment and use of children, noting that signatory armed groups and their splinter groups were the main perpetrators; further expressing concern at the 45 cases of recruitment and use by the Malian armed forces verified by the United Nations country task force during the reporting period; and strongly urging all parties to immediately release, without preconditions, all children from their ranks, hand them over to relevant civilian child protection actors, 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 grave concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed groups; acknowledging that some children lacked valid civil documentation to prove their age; emphasizing that children who have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups, including groups designated as terrorists, and are accused of having committed crimes during armed conflicts should be treated primarily as victims, and urging the Government of Mali to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and calling for continued implementation of the Protocol on the Release and Handover of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups signed by the United Nations and the Government of Mali in 2013;

Expressing deep concern at the sharp increase of the number of children killed or maimed, including as a direct or indirect result of ethnic strife, rising intercommunal violence, crossfire during clashes among armed groups and incidents with explosive remnants of war or improvised explosive devices; and calling upon parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality enshrined therein;

Expressing grave concern about incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children; noting that such acts included forced marriage and attempted rape; 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 by members of their respective groups or forces, and stressing the importance of accountability for those who commit sexual violence against children; noting with concern the difficulty to track, document and verify such violations and abuses owing to several factors, including prevailing insecurity, lack of protection for survivors and witnesses, impunity, stigma, limited access to justice and sociocultural barriers, resulting in an underreporting of the prevalence of cases of sexual violence against children that may have occurred in Mali in the reporting period, and stressing the importance of providing non-discriminatory and comprehensive specialized services, including psychosocial, health, legal and livelihood support and services, to survivors of sexual violence;

Strongly condemning attacks on schools and hospitals, the number of which more than tripled in the reporting period; 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 disproportionate or indiscriminate 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, as guided by the Safe Schools Declaration, which was endorsed by the Government of Mali in February 2018; and noting that the education and health systems remained deeply affected by the conflict, depriving 378,300 children of their fundamental rights to education and basic health care;

Strongly condemning the abduction of children related to growing insecurity and intensification of armed groups’ activities, including for recruitment and use, and rape and other forms of sexual violence;

Expressing grave concern at incidents of denial of humanitarian access, including attacks on humanitarian personnel and restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid to children, and calling upon all parties to conflict to allow and facilitate, in accordance with their obligations under 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;

To the Government of Mali

Stressing the primary role of the Government in providing protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict in Mali; recalling that Mali is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict; affirming that the gradual restoration and extension of State authority across the territory of Mali would contribute significantly to the stability of the country, and recognizing the importance of strengthening national capacities in that regard;

Commending the commitment and efforts of the Government of Mali for the protection of children affected by armed conflict, in particular through the implementation of a national policy on child protection and promotion and the strengthening of its national legal framework; further commending the collaboration between the Government and the country task force to reinforce community-based mechanisms focused on the prevention of the six grave violations and the identification and provision of care to children released from armed forces and groups as well as to children at risk of recruitment and re-recruitment; and encouraging the Government to continue such efforts and to finalize the revision of the draft national law on child protection, in order to implement its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child with regard to the recruitment and use of children below the age of 18 in armed conflict and to swiftly adopt it;

Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict, stressing that all perpetrators of the six grave violations must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through timely and systematic investigation and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction; expressing concern at limited progress with regards to the fight against impunity through investigations, prosecution and conviction of suspected perpetrators of grave violations against children, inter alia due to the security situation; calling for increased efforts by the Government to address the prevalence of impunity, to hold perpetrators of the six grave violations against children to account and to ensure that all victims have access to justice and comprehensive specialized services, including psychosocial, health, legal and livelihood support and services, to survivors of sexual violence;

Encouraging the Government to address the new cases of recruitment and use by the Malian armed forces; urging the Government to work with the United Nations to review allegations of child recruitment and use by its armed forces and to reinforce effective age assessment procedures within the ongoing reform of the security sector; encouraging the institutionalization of child protection trainings for the Malian Defense and Security Forces;

Expressing concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed groups; acknowledging that some children lacked valid civil documentation to prove their age; welcoming the release from detention by the Malian authorities of 79 children and calling on authorities to fully implement the Protocol on the Release and Handover of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups and to work with the United Nations to review the cases of children whose age could not be determined and who remained detained for alleged association with armed groups; emphasizing that children who have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups, including those groups designated as terrorist, and are accused of having committed crimes during armed conflicts should be treated primarily as victims; urging the Government to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, in particular that the deprivation of liberty for children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period and to prioritize their reintegration, as guided by the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, which it has endorsed;

Recalling the Government’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration while expressing concern about the military use of schools by Government forces during the reporting period in violation of its obligations under international law, stressing the importance of access to education and health care for all children in Mali, and calling upon it to ensure that schools and related personnel are protected and that any schools damaged in the course of military operations are repaired and rehabilitated;

Encouraging the Government to adopt the draft law aimed at annulling the 30-day legal deadline for birth registration to restore children’s fundamental right to an identity.

Encouraging the Government to focus on long-term and sustainable reintegration and rehabilitation opportunities for children affected by armed conflict that are gender- and age-sensitive, 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, 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; in that regard calling upon the Government to ensure that all disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes required by the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation and security sector reforms take into account the specific needs of boys and girls, including through the development of a gender and age-sensitive DDR process;

Welcoming advances in the truth seeking, justice and reconciliation process and encouraging the Government to continue cooperating with the country task force to enable its support to the Malian Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission towards further promoting children’s participation in the reconciliation process;

To all armed groups mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General, specifically those listed in the annex to the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict

Strongly condemning all violations and abuses committed against children in Mali; strongly urging all armed groups 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 reintegration into their communities and end and prevent further recruitment and use of children;

Expressing strong concern at the high number of children killed and maimed, including by explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, and urging all armed groups to not target civilians, including children, and to take concrete measures to reduce their impact on children;

Strongly urging all armed groups 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, and stressing the importance of accountability for those who commit sexual and gender-based violence;

Expressing strong concern at the large increase in number of attacks against schools and related personnel, which has had a severe impact on access to education for 378,300 children, and calling upon all armed groups 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 in violation of applicable international law;

Expressing concern about the security challenges facing the United Nations country task force on monitoring and reporting in the north and centre of Mali, and in this regard urging armed groups to ensure United Nations personnel safe and unhindered access to territories under their control for monitoring and reporting purposes;

Commending the continued collaboration between CMA [Coordination of Movements of Azawad] and the United Nations to accelerate the implementation by CMA of its action plan; encouraging the CMA to swiftly implement it and to facilitate United Nations access to the areas under its control for the purpose of delivering assistance to children, monitoring progress in the action plan implementation and verifying allegations;

Welcoming steps taken by Platform [Platform coalition of armed groups] to adopt an action plan on child recruitment and use; calling upon Platform’s leadership to translate its commitments into action by swiftly signing and fully implementing the action plan;

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;

The Working Group agreed to address a message, through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group, 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, killing and maiming, abduction and 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 reintegration of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid the stigmatization of such children.

For information media. Not an official record.