Children Should Be Treated Primarily As Victims, Not As Perpetrators – SRSG For Children And Armed Conflict Stressed At The Human Rights Council

Geneva, 12 September 2011 – During her presentation to the Human Rights Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict expressed concern with regard to issues related to children and justice including the detention and prosecution of children in situations of armed conflict.

“States are increasingly arresting and detaining children associated with armed groups, either because they are a threat to national security or because they have participated in hostilities,” SRSG Radhika Coomaraswamy said during the session. When deprived of their liberty, children are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses.

According to her new publication, “Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict”, children are often tried in national and military courts without legal representation or assistance, are not accompanied by their parents and often do not possess a clear understanding of the charges brought against them.

“Given the forced nature and the root causes of their association with armed groups, and, considering their age, children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators,” the child rights advocate said and called on Member States to prosecute adult recruiters who force girls and boys to commit violations. Many are themselves abused, exploited and beaten into submission by their commanders while associated with an armed group.

The publication was launched the same day in an effort to bring conceptual clarity to children and justice-related matters including the question of how children who have suffered grave violations during armed conflict can seek justice.

During her presentation, SRSG Coomaraswamy also elaborated on the changing nature of war and its terrible impact on children. “Wherever aerial attacks occur, the technological potential to kill civilians including children, may result in devastating circumstances,” SRSG Coomaraswamy said. She called on all parties to minimize civilian causalities and characterised the use of girls and boys as suicide bombers and ‘victim’ bombers, “one of the most perverse developments in modern warfare.” The world should unite as one against these developments.

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Press Activities
Press Conference 13 Sep at 2 pm
Palais des Nations, Press Room III

Relevant documents
Annual Report of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict to HRC
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/18session/A.HRC.18.38_en.pdf

Working Paper on Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict
http://www.un.org/children/conflict/_documents/Working%20Paper%20Number%203_Children%20and%20Justice.pdf

Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/275/33/PDF/N1127533.pdf?OpenElement

Other Resources

Human Rights Council webcast: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/childreninwar
Photographs: http://www.flickr.com/childrenandarmedconflict specifically:
Web: http://www.un.org/children/conflict

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For further information, please contact:
Muriel Gschwend in Geneva
Associate Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed
Conflict
+1 347-967 86 06 – gschwend@un.org

Timothy La Rose in New York
Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed
Conflict
+1 917-346-3404 – larose@un.org