DRC – Serious Violations Of Children’s Rights With Impunity Continues

Serious violations of children's rights with impunity continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo

June 26 2006 – Pursuant to resolution 1612 (2005) establishing a monitoring and reporting mechanism, to the Security Council Working Group on Children Affected by Armed Conflict examines the report of the Secretary General on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC – (S/2006/389)

In his report covering the period from July 2005 to May 2006, the Secretary General notes that serious violations of children's rights are continuing with impunity. These violations — which have been reported in Katanga, Ituri and North Kivu Provinces – include the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups, abduction, sexual violence, killing, maiming, and attacks on schools.

The perpetrators engaged in these violations are mainly Mai-Mai groups, elements with links to the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) as well as non-aligned groups such as the coalition of the Mouvement révolutionnaire congolais (MRC) and the dissident General Laurent Nkunda. The report also blames members of Congolese security forces including the police and the army.

At the country level, however, a significant reduction in the recruitment and use of children has occurred over the past 12 months. According to official figures, 18,524 children have been released from armed forces and groups through official processes, including 2,880 girls (15.5%). Thousands more have escaped from fighting forces on their own and are discreetly returning to civilian life.

This positive trend is due to a combination of factors such as the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program for children, the army integration process as well as the constant decrease in the number of active fighting zones. The persistent lobbying by child protection networks against recruitment of children and the progress made by the DRC judicial and military authorities in the fight against impunity are also playing a major role. Nevertheless, these children remain vulnerable to new threats and harassments, including re-recruitment.

Girls are predominant in this latter category, as many of them would face extreme forms of social exclusion if identified as having been associated with armed groups and forces. Girls are also the main victims of rape, which the International Criminal Court (ICC) qualifies as a crime against humanity. More than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence have been identified in the DRC since the middle of 2005. Yet, 70 per cent of them are benefiting from some form of assistance thanks to a multi-agency and multi-sectoral initiative led by UN agencies.

In his recommendations, the Secretary General reaffirms the complementary nature of the jurisdiction of the ICC in the DRC, and the primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring perpetrators of serious crimes against children to justice. "I strongly urge all stakeholders to take all necessary actions for the complete and unconditional release of children still present in the armed forces of the DRC and in armed groups operating in that country, with particular attention to dissident General Laurent Nkunda, who has totally disregarded previous decisions of the Security Council", he underlines.

In addition, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Coomarawamy will lead a mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the near future. This visit aims to help highlight the need to mainstream child protection into the transition and post-transition priorities of the Government of the DRC and its United Nations and civil society partners.

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For further information, please contact:

Laurence Gerard, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children Affected by Armed Conflict – + 1212 963 0984 (gerardl@un.org)