UN - United Nations

07/09/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/09/2019 14:44

Public Statement by Chair of Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

At its 82nd meeting, on 9 July 2019, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the second report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (document S/2018/969), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to the armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic which are mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General, i.e. the Government forces, including the National Defence Forces and pro- government militias, as well as non‑State armed groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, groups self-affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Jaysh al-Islam, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and the People's Protection Units and Women's Protection Units (YPG/YPJ):

  • Expressing grave concern at the scale, severity and recurrence of violations and abuses endured by children in the Syrian Arab Republic, strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in the Syrian Arab Republic, and urging all parties to the conflict to immediately end and prevent all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children, abduction, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law;
  • Calling upon them to implement further the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (document S/AC.51/2014/4);
  • Expressing deep concern at the lack of concrete and effective measures towards ensuring accountability of perpetrators consistent with parties' obligations under international law, and stressing that all perpetrators must be swiftly brought to justice and held accountable, including through timely and systematic investigation, and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction;
  • Strongly urging all parties to the conflict to release immediately and without preconditions all children associated with them and to end and prevent further recruitment and use of children, consistent with their obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Declaration made by the Syrian Arab Republic upon accession thereto in 2003; expressing concern about the deprivation of liberty of children, both by State and non-State actors, for their association or alleged association with armed forces or armed groups, including those armed groups who commit acts of terrorism, and urging all parties to the conflict to treat these children primarily as victims of recruitment and use, to hand them immediately and without preconditions over to relevant civilian child protection actors, work to ensure their full reintegration through rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, including psychosocial support, provide access to the United Nations to all detention centres for monitoring and protection purposes and to ensure that where children face prosecution for allegedly committing crimes that those prosecutions respect the rights of the child; urging the relevant parties and Governments, including the countries of origin of foreign children deprived of liberty in the Syrian Arab Republic, to cooperate with the United Nations to seek rights-based durable solutions taking into account the principle of the best interests of the child;
  • Expressing deep concern at the alarmingly high and increasing number of children killed and maimed, including by indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks in contravention of international law, including in highly urbanized areas, as well as through torture or summary execution or by being used as suicide bombers; condemning in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons, resulting in numerous casualties, including many children; and urging all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid and in any event minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects;
  • Expressing deep concern at the high number of rapes and other forms of sexual violence against children, including trafficking for sexual enslavement, strongly urging all parties to the armed conflict to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children by members of their respective groups, and stressing the importance of ensuring access for survivors to specialized services for survivors, as well as accountability for those who commit or are otherwise responsible for sexual and gender-based violence against children;
  • Strongly condemning attacks on schools and hospitals, in contravention of international law, including through indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, and deploring the use by armed forces and non‑State armed groups, including armed groups designated by the United Nations Security Council as terrorist, of schools for military purposes, such as training, ammunition storage, detention facilities, accommodation and as military bases; calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, as such in accordance with international humanitarian law, and to end and prevent deliberate, disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate attacks or threats of attacks against those schools and hospitals and their personnel, as well as the military use of schools and hospitals in violation of international law, and stressing the importance of accountability for attacks against those schools and hospitals in contravention of international law;
  • Strongly condemning the abduction of children by parties to the conflict, and calling upon parties to cease the abduction of children and immediately release all abducted children and allow for swift family reunification in the best interest of the child, or provide information as to their fate if no longer alive;
  • Strongly condemning the systematic use of sieges that are in contravention of international humanitarian law throughout the reporting period, with which there was demonstrated correlation to violations and abuses against children, and strongly condemning the denial of humanitarian access, including denial of humanitarian assistance and attacks on humanitarian facilities, personnel and transports, and calling upon all parties to the conflict to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered access to children consistent with the United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance, to respect international humanitarian law and to respect the work of all United Nations agencies, and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction, while emphasizing the need to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid;
  • Noting the release in February 2017 by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic of a national workplan to prevent and respond to underage recruitment, and the establishment in March 2018 by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic of a national committee for the implementation of its national workplan on child recruitment, requesting the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to provide more information about the implementation of this workplan while urging it to adopt and implement a comprehensive action plan with the United Nations, in line with Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent relevant resolutions, addressing all six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict;
  • Taking note of the signature in 2017 of Geneva Call Deeds of Commitment for the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict by seven groups self-affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, which, inter alia, prohibit each group from recruiting and using children under 18 years of age in hostilities and the signing of a similar deed of commitment by the People's Protection Units and Women's Protection Units; and urging these and other non-State armed groups to develop, adopt and implement action plans with the United Nations to end and prevent all six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict;
  • Welcoming the creation of an informal local Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict, based in Jordan, which supports the advocacy work of the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting and all other relevant actors on violations and abuses committed against children in the Syrian Arab Republic;
  • Urging those who are engaged in peace talks and negotiating agreements, particularly those conducted pursuant to the inclusive, Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué, to ensure that child protection provisions, including on the release and reintegration of children, and the use of alternatives to prosecution, as well as provisions on the rights and well-being of children, are integrated into the peace talks and negotiated agreements at the earliest possible stage, taking into account children's views, where possible, in these processes;
  • Demanding that parties to the conflict facilitate full, safe and unhindered access for United Nations monitoring and reporting personnel for monitoring and reporting purposes;

To community and religious leaders:

  • Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict;
  • Urging them to publicly condemn and continue to advocate ending and preventing violations and abuses against children, in particular those involving the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, abductions, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support re-integration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of these children.