15 SEPTEMBER 2008
|CHANGING WARFARE MAKES CHILDREN MORE VULNERABLE
When Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, presented
her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 9 September, she drew attention to the impact of the changing
nature of conflict on children and on the need to take action to stop grave violations of their rights in situations
of armed conflict.
Due to the changing nature of warfare, the distinction between civilians and combatants is blurring. The toll on
civilian life, especially children, is increasingly immeasurable. "In the battle between terrorism and
counter-terrorism, many insurgent groups are not only mobilizing children in their political and military activities
but are also using them as child suicide bombers. Some groups attack schools and are particularly brutal with regard
to girl students", says Ms. Coomaraswamy. Children have become victims of aerial bombardments as collateral damage
and are also being placed in arbitrary or administrative detention without adequate judicial process. The Special
Representative urges the Council to ensure that the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law
regarding the separation of civilian from combatant and the rule of proportionality are respected.
Ms. Coomaraswamy drew the attention of the Council to the fact that while human rights and humanitarian law often
focus on States, non-state actors also engages in grave violations against children during armed conflict. "The
Council should deal comprehensively with the issue of all non-state actors, how to make them accountable for human
rights violations and how to deal with State tolerance of their activities. It is also important that States
facilitate dialogue with such actors so that UN agencies may bring them into compliance with their international
obligations", she states.
She also strongly underscored the importance of the fight against impunity for violations of children’s rights in
terms of achieving deterrence and compliance. "Peace must come with justice it is only the timing that can be
negotiated", she declared.