New York- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, is encouraged by the commitment expressed by Sudanese authorities following the signing of an Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the country’s national security forces.
“The Vice-President, the Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Social Affairs and other senior officials of the Sudanese Government expressed their intention to act quickly to enhance the protection of the country’s children. They have my support and I look forward to the Action Plan’s full implementation,” said Leila Zerrougui.
The Action Plan, signed on Sunday in a ceremony presided by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, marked a new milestone in the campaign Children, Not Soldiers. Sudan already has laws that set the minimum age for recruitment at 18 and criminalize underage recruitment. The Action Plan details steps and measures to end and prevent underage recruitment, including strengthening age verification mechanisms and ensuring accountability for child recruiters.
The high-level Government committee in charge of overseeing the Action Plan implementation was recently established and is expected to begin its work shortly, with the support of the United Nations.
Throughout her visit, the Special Representative was accompanied by the three co-chairs of the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, Bintou Keita, Deputy Joint Special Representative for the African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Marta Ruedas, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative. They are in charge of supporting Government efforts and are dedicated to the success of this Action Plan.
In her meetings with Government officials, the Special Representative stressed that access to conflict-affected areas in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan States to monitor progress and violations, including those committed by armed groups, will be a key factor for the success of the Action Plan.
Detention of children
In Khartoum, the Special Representative met with 21 children allegedly recruited by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and held in detention by Sudanese intelligence services, some since April 2015. The children were captured during military operations in Darfur and told Ms. Zerrougui they had not been able to contact their families.
“The authorities assured me the boys would be pardoned and freed. Meanwhile, they should be allowed to contact their families. I will follow up to make sure this happens quickly and I remind authorities that children allegedly associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims, with detention considered only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time,” said Leila Zerrougui.
UNICEF and UNAMID are working with the National Council for Child Welfare to gain access to the children and to begin the process of family tracing and reunification, taking into consideration the best interest of the child.
As mandated by the UN Security Council, there is an ongoing dialogue between the United Nations and armed groups identified by the Secretary-General for grave violations against children in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan States. Last year, JEM, the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi and Sudan liberation Army/Abdul Wahid issued a joint communiqué and command orders in which they committed to end and prevent grave violations against children.
“The boys and girls of Sudan have endured too many years of brutal conflict. I call on all parties listed to strengthen their engagement with the United Nations and to take concrete steps to better protect children,” said Leila Zerrougui.
The Special Representative is hoping to return to Sudan soon to witness progress by the Government towards full implementation of the Action Plan.
Parties to conflict listed for recruitment and use of children in the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict
- Government security forces, including the Sudanese Armed Forces, the Popular Defense Forces and the Sudan Police Forces
- Justice and Equality Movement
- Pro-Government militias
- Sudan liberation Army/ Abdul Wahid
- Sudan Liberation Army/ Minni Minawi
- Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North
For additional information, please contact:
Stephanie Tremblay, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, +1-212-963-8285 (office), +1-917-288-5791 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org