Human Rights Council Discusses Report Of The Special Representative

Geneva, 21 September 2007 – The Human Rights Council this afternoon discussed the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. It also selected the countries to be reviewed in the Universal Periodic Review, providing a calendar of work for the Council for the next four years, from 2008 to 2011. The countries selected to undergo the Universal Periodic Review process at the first session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group in 2008 were Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Philippines, Algeria, Poland, Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic, and Argentina. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said she had committed herself to country visits and advocacy to bring about a high level attention to the plight of children affected by armed conflict. Her primary focus had been in four areas: child soldiers, sexual violence against children, safety and access of humanitarian aid, and rehabilitation and reintegration of children. In the general debate, delegations raised a number of issues, including that the multifaceted nature of violence presented new threats to children affected by armed conflicts. The use of children in armed conflict should be considered a war crime. It was immoral that children should be victims of the competition to control diamonds, oil or for geo-strategic influence. Speakers said the international community should address the root causes of conflicts and all States should undertake a binding legal obligation to observe international humanitarian law. Others noted that child soldiers and children associated with fighting forces should be specifically included in peace agreements. All States should focus on the special needs of children in armed conflict situations, bearing in mind their total vulnerability. Speaking as concerned countries in the context of the presentation of the report of the Special Representative were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Pakistan for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Egypt for the African Group, Portugal for the European Union, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Thailand, Luxembourg, Nepal, Turkey, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Canada, Liechtenstein, Italy, Japan and Tanzania. Also speaking were Asian Legal Resource Center, Women's International Zionist Organization, and International Educational Development. China and South Africa spoke after the selection of the countries to undergo the Universal Periodic Review process. The next meeting of the Council will be at 10 a.m. on Monday 24 September, when it will take up its agenda item on human rights situations that require the Council's attention and hold a general debate on the topic. Report Before the Council The report of Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/4/45), highlights the significant advances made in the efforts of the international community to ensure tangible protection for children affected by armed conflict and outlines strategies that will be undertaken to ensure the institution of an "era of application" of international child protection standards and norms since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) on 26 July 2005. The report also recognizes that the creation of the Human Rights Council places human rights on an equal footing with security and economic development, and that the Council will hence serve as an important component of and a critical partner in efforts to ensure the application and enforcement on the ground of international norms and standards to protect children's rights and to end impunity for violating parties. The report recognizes that, despite the progress that has been made, the Office of the Special Representative continues to receive reports of grave violations being committed against children by parties in several situations of armed conflict and, therefore, that much remains to be done to ensure the protection of the rights of children affected by armed conflict. To this end, the Special Representative has put forward a two-year strategic framework to strengthen and consolidate the gains made in the past and to meet the new challenges in the period ahead. The report concludes that the United Nations human rights system must continue to play a crucial role and actively support the protection of the rights of war-affected children on the ground. The Special Representative recommends that the Human Rights Council support the monitoring and reporting mechanism for children and armed conflict in all situations of concern, and that it recognize and make an integral part of the agenda of its future sessions the five categories of grave violations against children other than child soldiering. Presentation of Report of Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, presenting her report, said she had committed herself to country visits and advocacy to bring about high level attention to the plight of children affected by armed conflict. Her primary focus had been in four areas: child soldiers, sexual violence against children, safety and access of humanitarian aid, and rehabilitation and reintegration of children. On Sri Lanka, the Special Representative said that the LTTE had not complied with its commitments regarding non-recruitment and release of child soldiers, and there were credible reports of Sri Lankan military collusion in such practices, and that humanitarian workers had been killed and non-governmental organizations threatened. Continuing violence exacerbated the plight of internally displaced children and humanitarian delivery. In Darfur, Ms. Coomaraswamy said there was a culture of impunity in violence against children, aggravated by a security vacuum. The Government of National Unity and Government of Southern Sudan had made commitments on monitoring by the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Mission in Sudan, allocation of resources, criminalization of child soldier recruitment, and safety and protection for humanitarian personnel. These and the UN action plan to identify and release children associated with the armed forces, were being monitored. In Burundi she remained deeply concerned at lack of compliance by the FNL over reintegration of child soldiers, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo there were still many children in the armed forces as well as sexual violence and a climate of impunity. Because of time limitations, she said she was unable to speak about her visit to Lebanon, but the full text of her statement was available. Statements by Concerned Countries SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the Democratic Republic of the Congo had undergone, throughout its long war, the sad phenomenon of recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. In the national army, all young boys and girls recognised as minors had been demobilised and reintegrated in civilian life. The different leaders of the rebel groups which used children to protect the gold and diamond mines that financed the war had been brought to justice. The phenomenon of child warriors had significantly diminished since the end of the war, and would totally disappear when the foreign rebel groups, the groups which did not want to make peace, and the rebels under General Laurent Nkunda were disarmed. Once disarmed, children recruited and used by these groups would be demobilised and reintegrated into their normal way of life. On the judicial level, the Government had just adopted the draft law on the Code for Child Protection, which covered every aspect of the life of the child. U. NYUNT SWE (Myanmar) said Myanmar wished to share with the Council the latest developments in the country. Concrete steps had been taken to prevent recruitment of under-aged children into the military. Recruitment procedures, procedures for discharge from military service, reintegration into society, public awareness measures and punitive action had been adopted into a plan of action. The Government had invited the Special Representative in a spirit of cooperation with the United Nations in this matter. During her visit, Ms. Coomaraswamy had had the opportunity to visit the military recruitment centre. Her visit had been a successful and fruitful one. Measures had been taken in response to her recommendations. SHIRANI GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said Sri Lanka urged the United Nations agencies to make clear that there would be zero tolerance on child recruitment. Sadly, the LTTE argued that the issue was comparatively unimportant. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the figure of over 6,000 children in the LTTE forces was likely to represent only one third of the actual figure. UNICEF also had statistics on the numbers recruited by the break-away Karuna faction. Sri Lanka had said at the Security Council that it would investigate allegations made against sections of the government security forces for complicity in the abduction of children by the Karuna faction, and a high level inter-disciplinary committee had been created to this end. Sri Lanka had also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child's Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. Child recruitment was criminalized under the penal code. Besides the child recruitment issue, the Government had focused on healthcare and free education in the conflict areas. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka had widened its mandate to include child rights violations. There were efforts to mobilize funding and resources and establish more permanent infrastructures for "surrendees". The Government called on the LTTE and Karuna faction to cease child recruitment and return children to their families. RAHMA SALIH ELOBIED (Sudan) said Sudan had examined the report and listened carefully to the statement of the Special Representative. Concerning paragraph 2.a on monitoring mechanisms, it was important to include the Government in monitoring according to Security Council resolutions, and obtaining information from the Government. It was also important to state what were the sources of information. Information that was published in the statement should first have been given to the Government, or at least given in the report. Concerning the recruitment of children and their exploitation as soldiers, Sudan had lived for a long time in conflict. Since peace had been re-established in many areas, the Government had been working seriously and relentlessly to deal with these consequences, including the child soldiers used by the armed forces outside the scope of the Sudanese Army, which latter set 18 as a minimum age of recruitment. Work was being done to combat the phenomenon of the recruitment of children. Interactive Dialogue on Report of Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that the OIC was glad to hear that steady progress had been made in establishing the monitoring and reporting mechanism. The OIC attached high value to the work of the UN Security Council's Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict. Empirical evidence indicated that systematic and consistent violations of the rights of children happened most frequently in situations of foreign occupation. The past decade had seen important gains in the elaboration of international legal standards for the protection of children. Without a deliberate effort by the international community to insist on the implementation and respect of existing laws, the vulnerability of children would persist. Girls were particularly vulnerable in situations of armed conflicts. The protection of the human rights of the girl child should be made the focus of greater attention by United Nations bodies. The Special Representative should continue to advocate against all violations against children wherever they occurred. The international community should address the root causes of conflicts and all States should undertake a binding legal obligation to observe international humanitarian law. UN peacekeeping or observer missions should include observation and reporting on the treatment of children and measures to offer them protection. The principal endeavour of the Council should be to ensure the protection of children in armed conflicts before conflicts broke out. IHALB GAMALELDIN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said African countries had committed themselves to ensure children's welfare since the World Summit in 1990, and to work towards creating stability and peace and implement the Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children. African countries had collaborated with the United Nations Children's Fund and the Special Representative and her predecessor, exhorted warring parties to keep children out of conflicts, and had urged rehabilitation, re-training and reintegration in civil society. The use of children in armed conflict should be considered a war crime. African countries had urged zones and corridors of peace for protection and delivery of humanitarian aid in conflict situations. Statistics in the report were deeply disturbing. The United Nations generally and the Security Council in particular had to play a more active role in tackling situations where children were being brutalized. All conflict situations involving the victimization and violation of women and children should be treated in equal measure. It was immoral that children should be victims of the competition to control diamonds, oil or for geo-strategic influence. CAROLINA LOPES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the multifaceted nature of violence presented new threats to children affected by armed conflicts. In the last year, major steps had been taken in the fight against impunity in different international judicial bodies, and the Special Representative should explain what further steps could be taken to fight impunity for child-related war crimes or crimes against humanity, and, in particular, how could sexual abuse/exploitation and violence against children, especially girls, be addressed in a more effective way. Child soldiers and children associated with fighting forces should be specifically included in peace agreements. The European Union had strong concern about any recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, contrary to international law. Girls or young women that were sexually abused during wartime continued to be faced with discrimination and social stigmatisation in post-conflict society. What measures could be applied to ensure the societal re-integration of both these young women and their children, the European Union asked. GUY O'BRIEN (Australia) said that the breakdown of social protection due to conflict threatened all children with separation from their families. In an armed conflict, children on all sides were especially vulnerable and needed protection and care. The high-level of displacement caused by the escalating conflict in Sri Lanka, which affected thousands of children, was of concern. All parties were called upon to ensure that all forms of forced recruitment and abduction of children were ended and that necessary action to hold accountable those responsible for such practices was being taken. NATALIE KHOLI (Switzerland) asked the Special Representative to comment on progress regarding recommendations by the Security Council's Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict, and follow-up that the Working Group envisaged. Switzerland also noted with appreciation the strategic reinforcement of the partnership between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the mandate-holder, and related capacity building, and asked for the Special Representative's comments on cooperation surrounding the implementation of Resolution 1612. AMY LAURENSON (New Zealand) said the Special Representative was thanked for her good work and making progress on this issue. All States should focus on the special needs of children in armed conflict situations, bearing in mind their total vulnerability. Member States should sign and ratify the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Children were at risk in conflict situations all over the world. The ongoing situation in Sri Lanka had brought with it worrying increases in human rights violations, and the parties involved should set up a cease-fire, and commit themselves to returning to the peace process. All stakeholders should use the opportunity for dialogue presented by the High Commissioner's visit. PITCHAYAPHANT CHARNBHUMIDOL (Thailand) said that the Human Rights Council could serve as an important component to ensure the application of the international standards to protect children. Children were one of the most vulnerable groups in any society. Our world was still not a world where children could live in freedom. Thailand supported the work of the Special Representative. It was important that the whole United Nations system become involved. Any study had to be impartial and fair. Thailand supported the Security Council's Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict. JEAN FEYDER (Luxembourg) said the report contained vital information on forced recruitment, sexual violence, abductions and humanitarian provisions for children. The notion of the duty to protect was an important principle for States to abide by. Luxembourg welcomed the cooperation between the Special Representative and the United Nations Children's Fund in connection with the Machel study. Reports were due from the Security Council's Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka, Nepal and Somalia soon, and Luxembourg asked if there were any indications on these yet. BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal) said that as a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols, Nepal attached great importance to the protection and promotion of the rights of the child. Even during the difficult time of armed conflict, the Government had always taken extra measures and care to protect the child and other vulnerable groups. The Comprehensive Peace Accord also explicitly banned the recruitment or exploitation of children under the age of 18 in any kind of security force, and provided for the rehabilitation of the children affected by the conflict. Nepal intended to invite the Special Representative to find ways on how her work could contribute to the protection of the rights of the child in the context of the ongoing peace process. With regards to the reference to Nepal in some paragraphs of the report, the armed conflict had already ended 10 months before the time of preparation of the report; therefore, the context and circumstances had changed. TUGBA SARAYONLU ETENSEL (Turkey) said that the Special Representative's report clearly demonstrated why children's rights should remain high on the agenda of the Council. In all armed conflicts, children were the most vulnerable group and the first exposed to the negative consequences of the general break down of society. A solution to the problem could only be reached by taking a comprehensive approach. The Human Rights Council should ensure that children's rights were protected in all situations of concern. How could the Council address children's rights in a more systemic manner and effectively contribute to the international efforts to eliminate violence against children? EVA TOMIC (Slovenia) said that the Machel study provided a platform for the future: what was the strategic role of the Human Rights Council in this platform in addressing the rights of children in armed conflict, and how could the Council and other agencies inter-link for a comprehensive and effective approach? Slovenia also asked how the Universal Periodic Review might contribute to the monitoring and reporting mechanisms established under Security Council Resolution 1612. KATRIONA GASKILL (United Kingdom) said child protection advisers, through their monitoring and reporting activities, had helped to increase the attention given to the rights and needs of war-affected children on the United Nations peace and security agenda. They had also played an important role in efforts to mainstream child protection issues into the work of other components of peacekeeping operations. In May 2007, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' report on the impact of child protection advisers made recommendations aimed at improving the selection process for the advisers, clarifying their role, improving coordination with other actors, and enhancing the support and guidance. How could these recommendations be taken forward, the United Kingdom asked? LIBERE BARARUNYERETSE of Organisation internationale de la francophonie, said that the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie attached much importance to the work of the current session. This would improve human rights work in the field. The Organization International de la Francophonie wished to be involved in the Universal Periodic Review preparatory phase as it could contribute to the strengthening of capacities. The current reports under consideration and the responses to these questions should strengthen the dialogue between cultures and nations. A strict respect of the institutional text was called for. All reports should be distributed to the delegations in a timely manner in all official UN languages, at least 15 days before the session. NADIA STUEWER (Canada) said there had been important progress in the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1612 and action plans for monitoring the situation of violence against children in armed conflict. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some specific recommendations of the Security Council's Working Group had yet to be put into action. How could countries like Canada support implementation of the Secretary General's recommendations? Canada would also like to know whether the parties in Sri Lanka had made progress on the Working Group's recommendations of June 2007. ISABEL FROMMELT (Liechtenstein) said the report of the Special Representative showed that despite the progress made in this regard, grave violations committed against children by parties in situations of armed conflict continued unabated. The facts were appalling: there were more than 30 reported situations of concern, 2 million children had been killed in armed conflicts, 6 million disabled, and more than 250,000 continued to be exploited as child soldiers. The Human Rights Council should support the monitoring and reporting mechanism for war-affected children in all situations of concern, and contribute to it by making the issue an integral part of its agenda. The Human Rights Council should play a critical role in ensuring the application and enforcement on the ground of international norms and standards to protect the rights of the child and in particular to end impunity for violating parties. ROBERTO VELLANO (Italy) said that the situations described in the report were of deep concern. The protection of children was of utmost importance. On the deeper engagement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, how was a coordinated and more cooperative framework being envisaged within which stakeholders should work and which concrete measures could be taken to that end? OSAMU YAMANAKA (Japan) said recruitment and sexual exploitation of children in armed conflict was a serious violation of children's rights. Child soldiers had difficulties in reintegrating in post conflict societies. The resolution of this problem was the responsibility of the international community as a whole. Countries who had not done so should be urged to sign the Optional Protocol and the international community should cooperate closely to this end. Monitoring should function in line with the objectives. Concrete actions taken by the international criminal court were also welcomed. Strengthened cooperation and streamlining of measures and frameworks was required. MATHEW MWAIMU (Tanzania) said involving children in armed conflict was one of the disasters which the world was experiencing today. Such a phenomenon curtailed many children's rights. Such tendencies should not be condoned, as they denied children the right to enjoy their childhood. Breaking the stage of childhood created a gap in life which could not be compensated – it became a loss over a lifetime. In recognition of this problem, Tanzania had taken a number of measures to combat it. Tanzania was a peaceful country in a troubled region, but had endeavoured to promote conflict resolution in the neighbourhood, as well as in the Great Lakes region as a whole, with part of the commitment being to minimise the suffering of children involved in the conflicts in the region. All parties involved in conflict should follow suit. SOO A. KIM, of Asian Legal Resource Center, said that the ongoing use of armed children in many of Asia's armed conflicts was of concern. Conflicts resulted in large numbers of children being affected, including suffering trauma. Children were often recruited from tribal communities, as these were frequently located in conflict zones. In anti-state militias, girls were reportedly being used for sexual gratification. Child soldiers' living conditions were invariably very poor. They were often denied adequate food. Children were used as scouts and to test the land for anti-personnel mines. RAMA ENAV, of Women's International Zionist Organization, said that despite rocket attacks and casualties, Israeli schools encouraged peace and tolerance, whereas Palestinian schools were often named after terrorists, and children were incited to violence and hatred. Children's TV programmes inculcated Palestinian children into Jihad and indoctrinated them with hatred, terrorism and political violence. How could peace be achieved when young minds were infused with this desire to kill? KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, said Mr. Alan Rock was unable to actually visit the Tamil-controlled areas in Sri Lanka, and was severely restricted in his ability to visit Tamil areas at all. As the war was almost exclusively in the Tamil areas, International Educational Development wondered how anyone could assess the impact of the armed conflict on children when unable to visit the affected areas. What would the Special Representative do to look into the other, more critical areas affecting hundreds of thousands of children implicated in this armed conflict? Concluding Remarks by the Special Representative RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict, in concluding remarks, said that this topic had strong support, as it was the only human rights topic the Security Council was addressing. With regard to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she agreed that there was improvement and that the Government was making efforts, although there were serious concerns about impunity. With regard to Myanmar, the Government had been very cooperative and violations were being investigated. With regard to Sri Lanka, there were some positive steps from the side of the Government to investigate allegations, although some factions were continuing to function under impunity. On Palestine and Israel Ms. Coomaraswamy said that the issues had been reviewed with both authorities. On both sides the use of certain textbooks was a fact. A Committee to review textbooks of both sides, to check if they did not give out a wrong view of reality, had been set up. More States would be reviewed. With regard to the African Group's remarks, all great violations and situations of concern everywhere in the world would be looked at. Ms. Coomaraswamy said that in October of this year a report would be presented on the topic to the Security Council which would deal with the fighting of impunity, the recruiting of children in armed conflicts and the dealing with children survivors. Statements made after the Selection of the Countries for the Universal Periodic Review LA YIFAN (China) congratulated the Council for the selection process, as it was the start of the much-awaited Universal Periodic Review process. GLAUDINE J. MTSHALI (South Africa) said the formula assured the objectivity of selection of Universal Periodic Review countries, but political leaders of countries needed to be informed of their pending subjection to review and a road-map of steps that States should take in preparing for the review was needed, as well as standards for compilations. Representation on the Troika should be uniform for all States and composition issues made clear. __________ For use of the information media; not an official record