Leila Zerrougui at the Human Rights Council: Children More Vulnerable Because of Multiplication of Crises

Geneva – The year 2014 was marked by a multiplication of conflicts and made children even more vulnerable to the effects of war, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, told the Human Rights Council earlier today, as she presented her Annual Report covering the period from December 2013 to December 2014.

In the six countries affected by the worst crises, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, the State of Palestine, South Sudan and Syria, children were victims of the worst violations.

“Ethnic or religious divisions, fuelled by power struggles also enabled the rise of extremist armed groups who use tactics of extreme violence targeting children and adults indiscriminately and with no distinction between civilians and combatants,” said the Special Representative during her presentation in Geneva.

Ms. Zerrougui added that all of us have witnessed the grave violations committed by groups such as ISIL or Boko Haram, including the executions, mutilations, recruitment, indoctrination,  sexual abuse and sexual slavery, the use of young girls as suicide bombers and the abduction of hundreds of children.

“What is tragic is that what we have seen, monitored and verified is only a fraction of the violations suffered by the children,” said the Special Representative.

She called for a response to the threat posed by these groups that is in full compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law and does not create new violations that could feed into these groups’ propaganda.

Improving the protection of children in such a difficult context is a major challenge. To ensure the voice of children is heard and their needs taken in to account, the Special Representative continues to work to strengthen partnerships with regional organizations, Member States as well as with the entire UN system and civil society.

During her presentation, Ms. Zerrougui highlighted four areas in which the work of the Human Rights Council can improve the protection of children: the fight against impunity, promoting alternatives to the detention of minors such as restorative justice, ensuring adequate resources for the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups and the protection of schools and hospitals from attack.

“The Human Rights Council has already taken initiatives to include the protection of the rights of children in its work and mechanisms,” concluded the Special Representative. “I would like to encourage you to include, as a priority, the violations and specific needs of children affected by armed conflict.”

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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), tremblay@un.org

You can read Leila Zerrougui’s presentation to the Human Rights Council (in French) here

The annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the Human Rights Council is available here