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Children Becoming Vulnerable in Conflict Areas

Children Becoming Increasingly Vulnerable in Conflict Situations – UN Envoy

The changing nature of warfare around the world has meant that more and more children are being used in conflict situations, a senior United Nations child advocate said today, urging that greater action be taken to protect the rights of young people.

“The main challenge we face for children and armed conflict lies in the changing nature of warfare where civilian life is far less protected,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told the Human Rights Council today in Geneva.

Ms. Coomaraswamy said this is true not only in places that she has recently visited, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the occupied Palestinian territories, but in many others that are grappling with the scourge of terrorism.

“In the battle between terrorism and counter-terrorism, many insurgent groups are not only mobilizing children in their political and military activities but are using them as child suicide bombers,” she said.

The Special Representative also drew attention to children who are held in military detention without adequate judicial process, and the fact that children are often the victims of aerial bombardments which result in collateral damage.

“This Council must make it clear that the rules of engagement as defined by international law must be implemented and civilians, especially children, must remain a protected category.”

Another problem is that non-State actors are engaging in violations against children during armed conflict. “By tolerating their actions, including the recruitment and mobilization of children, a climate of impunity prevails and grave violations against children and the general population continue unabated, making life less secure for everyone,” she stated.

It is important that the Council deal comprehensively with the issue of all non-State actors, including making them accountable for human rights violations, she added.

Ms. Coomaraswamy also noted that sexual violence continues to be prevalent, but added that it was not just limited to girls. She said that during her visit to Afghanistan, she was appalled by the scale of sexual violence committed against boys by war lords and commanders.

The vulnerability of boys is an often neglected aspect of war, she noted, adding that the report on Afghanistan that will be published next month might help redress this situation.


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