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1. At its forty-eighth session, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted resolution 48/3 of 12 March 2004 on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts. In that resolution, the Commission recalled its previous resolutions on the subject, relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights and Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, as well as relevant provisions contained in the instruments of international humanitarian law relative to the protection of the civilian population. 1
2. The Commission expressed its strong belief that the rapid and unconditional release of women and children taken hostage in areas of armed conflict would advance the implementation of the goals enshrined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”, as well as the outcome document of the special session of the Assembly on children entitled “A world fit for children”, including the provisions therein regarding violence against women and children.
II. Information from Member States
9. The Government of Lebanon stressed the importance of implementing resolution 48/3 and reported on assistance offered by the Government, in particular the Ministry of Social Affairs, to prisoners of war, especially women, freed from Israeli prisons. Legislative measures adopted by the Government addressed, inter alia, the establishment of a formal committee for investigating the status of missing persons and the provision of compensation and retirement pensions for prisoners of war freed from Israeli prisons. The Government also established a national agency concerned with the welfare of prisoners of war, a committee within the Ministry of Social Affairs with the aim of coordinating efforts relevant to prisoners of war, and commissioned the preparation of three studies regarding prisoners of war. The Government described the impact of the armed conflict in Lebanon on women in particular. Female prisoners of war suffered from pressures imposed on them by society, which required them to fulfil traditional caretaking roles within the family rather than be recognized for the contribution they had made to defending their country. The Government of Lebanon reported that Israel detained female relatives of imprisoned men as a means of putting pressure on them to confess to matters related to the resistance, or to pressure those it was unable to detain to turn themselves in. According to sources of the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lebanon, there were a total of 254 female prisoners of war in Israeli prisons, constituting 5 per cent of all prisoners of war.
10. The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic responded that it was fully committed to resolution 48/3 and that it had no cases of women or children taken hostage. The Government stressed the necessity that Israel should adhere to the provisions of the resolution, especially concerning Syrian women in the occupied Syrian Golan.
III. Information from the entities of the United Nations system
12. The following United Nations entities responded to the request to provide information regarding the status of implementation of resolution 48/3 with information on their activities: the Department of Public Information, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also provided information.
23. UNRWA reported that since October 2000, it had provided multisectoral emergency relief to more than 1.1 million Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory, including food aid for families, shelter reconstruction and psychosocial counselling services for youth. In August 2005, three UNRWA staff members involved in humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip, including one woman, were abducted and held by an armed Palestinian group for one hour. During that time, a female UNDP staff member and her colleague were also abducted in Gaza City and held for several hours. All parties were released unharmed following an intervention by the Palestinian Authority.
27. The present report outlines continued actions taken by Governments in the development of policies and legislation as well as the provision of humanitarian support to women and children taken hostage. United Nations entities have continued to provide technical assistance and capacity-building to all actors, and have focused efforts on providing health services, including reproductive health services, and psychosocial support; preventing and dealing with the consequences of violence, including sexual exploitation; and supporting reintegration processes, particularly in relation to child soldiers. The lack of sex-disaggregated data was raised as a constraint that should be addressed.