UNITED NATIONS. CHANGING WARFARE MAKES CHILDREN MORE VULNERABLE

 

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.