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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Security Council
4684th Meeting (AM & PM)
SC/7631
14 January 2003



SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS USING CHILD SOLDIERS CAN NO LONGER BE DONE WITH IMPUNITY,

AS SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS DAY-LONG DEBATE ON CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT


Report Identifies 23 Parties to Conflicts
On Council’s Agenda That Continue to Recruit, Use Children


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Background

The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict, for which it had before it the Secretary-General's report (document S/2002/1299). ...

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OLARA A. OTUNNU, Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, ...

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Drawing attention to two particular situations, he said the developments unfolding in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel had a grave impact on children, including frequent school closures in the West Bank and Gaza and a drop in immmunization levels among Palestinian children.  He called on the Israeli authorities to abide fully by their international human rights and humanitarian legal obligations concerning the protection, rights and well-being of Palestinian children.  There had been child victims at both ends of suicide bombings, he said, and he called on the Palestinian authorities to do everything within their powers to stop all participation by children in the conflict.  He was also deeply concerned about the tragic turns of events in Côte d’Ivoire that was now beginning to reach the children.  No efforts should be spared to preserve unity and peace in that country, to ensure the protection of children and to prevent their engagement in the conflict.

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FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) expressed the hope that the meeting would lead to an effective plan to protect children in armed conflict and the protection of children under foreign occupation.  He fully supported the Secretary-General’s assertion of the need for integrating the protection of children into all aspects relating to international peace and security.  The plight of young girls affected by armed conflict deserved more follow-up by the Council, he said.

He said the Israeli occupation authorities had killed hundreds of Palestinian children.  The Council had attached great importance to the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and his region had witnessed the effects of armed conflict on children.  The situation of children under occupation must also be dealt with, and all issues mentioned in resolution 1379 (2001) must be taken up on an equal footing. Issues relating to the recruitment of children must be taken up based on the request of the parties concerned.  However, the Council should check the veracity of information presented to it.  Apart from fulfilling obligations to other international instruments, States must also be urged to fulfil their obligations in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.  It was of the utmost importance to give more attention to the root causes of conflict, as well as the motivation for the conscription of children, so that the issue could be dealt with correctly.

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MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) ...

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He said the Council must address the growing deficit in respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.  The civilians suffering in occupied Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir was ongoing.  The emergence of the International Criminal Court and the increasing willingness of the international community to penalize gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights were welcome signals that atrocities in armed conflict would not continue to enjoy impunity.  He endorsed strengthened monitoring and reporting mechanisms to identify violations of international norms and standards.  He also endorsed the idea that the “era of application” should encompass dissemination, advocacy, monitoring and reporting.  He, therefore, proposed to extend the authority of existing United Nations peacekeeping or observer missions to perform the task of humanitarian monitoring and reporting.

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WANG YINGFAN (China) said the causes of armed conflict were myriad, but always affected children as the most vulnerable group.  The parties to conflicts and the international community as a whole had to work together to find an integrated and comprehensive solution.  He called on all parties to:  abide by provisions in the Optional Protocol concerning age limits on conscription; put an end to enlisting child soldiers; and carry out demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of child soldiers.

He said the international community must also step up its efforts to eliminate poverty and make education universal.  The Council should continue to be concerned about the protection of children from the perspective of safeguarding international peace and security.  Preventing armed conflict was its major responsibility, and carrying out that responsibility was the best way it could protect children.  Drawing attention to the situation in the Middle East, he noted that children and women were the main victims of the conflict there.  The Council must take effective measures to protect children in the region, especially in the Palestinian territory, he said.

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MOHAMMED SALEH MOHAMMED SALEH (Bahrain) ...

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During the consideration of humanitarian issues, it was important to be objective and credible and avoid having two yardsticks, he stated.  It was extremely important for the Council to deal with the issue of Palestinian children affected by Israeli occupation.  In the future, it would be useful to invite bodies, such as the ILO, to participate, so that their experiences could be taken into account.  Also, it was necessary to increase cooperation and coordination among the Council, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to increase effectiveness in addressing such an important issue.  He hoped that the deliberations of the Council on the issue would become something “we could sink our teeth into”.

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AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that during the past two years, the Council had given particular importance to the issue of children and armed conflict.  In addition, in his report, the Secretary-General had noted that the Special Representative’s visits had heightened the awareness of the international community to the problems of children in armed conflict.  Palestinian children were not just suffering from occupation, but also deprived of their basic rights to live in security.  They were deprived of a future, as they were not given the tools to improve their future.

The suffering of Palestinian children, he continued, had gone beyond all limits, and there was no hope for the future.  He urged all countries to help Palestinian children and urged Mr. Otunnu to visit the region to become aware of the situation on the ground.  He supported all activities in the area of child protection, internationally and nationally.  The list of parties was a noteworthy development and should be followed up on.  He advocated making sure that children lived in security and stability.

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ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said that in his region, children had been recruited and used by terrorist organizations as human shields, for the placing of explosives, as gunmen and even as suicide bombers.  It was regrettable that the Secretary-General’s report had not mentioned such a reprehensible tactic.  Moreover, children had been educated to revere and emulate fighters and terrorists.  The subtler, but no less repugnant indoctrination of children to hatred and violence, through official media, educational and religious institutions, must also be condemned. 

He recalled that, in its most recent session, the Assembly had adopted a resolution pertaining specifically to the situation facing Palestinian children – the only resolution adopted with respect to one specific group of children.  While Palestinian children were undoubtedly deserving of protection, one might ask whether the 106 Israeli children killed and the many Israeli children wounded by terrorism since September 2000, or the children in Africa, or elsewhere were any less deserving.

It was a shame, he added, that those who supported that one-sided resolution were unable to rise above their narrow political agenda and call for the protection of both Israeli and Palestinian children, alike.  When human rights were allowed to be used as a political weapon, it cast doubt over the very commitment to human rights and damaged the credibility of the United Nations and its ability to work effectively on the issues of common concern.

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MOCHAMAD S. HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said his country continued to be concerned at the use of children in armed conflict and was disturbed at the abuses that children suffered in camps and the general suffering and deprivation they endured on account of conflict.  In that connection, it was important to point out the persisting problem of humanitarian access in conflict situations, such as in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Children involved in battle, whether they were hurt or not, were victims.  The continued recruitment of underage children for the purposes of conflict should not continue with impunity.

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MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that the impact of conflict on children had severe implications, not only for peace and security, but also for socio-economic development.  Further efforts should be made to ensure that the standards by which children were treated were implemented on the ground, and permanent monitoring and reporting mechanisms were created to identify and take measures against violations.  It was necessary to move with a great sense of urgency, to close the gap between words and actions.  “We must implement what we preach, and we must not forget the children that are today suffering under foreign occupation and domination”, he said, referring to children in Palestine and Western Sahara.  The Council had a Charter responsibility in that regard. 

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NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that during the last 28 months, Palestinian children had been subjected to the destruction of life at the hands of Israel, the occupying Power.  The occupying forces had committed war crimes, State terrorism and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinian children and the Palestinian people, in general.  Those forces had killed deliberately almost 650 Palestinian children and wounded thousands of others, hundreds of whom were permanently handicapped.  Most of all, Israeli policies had led to the impoverishment of Palestinian children.  The Israeli representative, he noted, had today criticized the Assembly’s resolution on Palestinian children.

The work of the Council in the field of children and armed conflicts complemented the work undertaken by the Assembly, he said.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and its reference to the suffering of the Palestinian children, which, while very brief, was a good start.  The same could be said of the intervention of Mr. Otunnu this morning, which, while mentioning the plight of Palestinian children, did not fully reflect the situation clearly.  He welcomed Mr. Otunnu to the region to assess the situation.

In a second intervention, Mr. MEKEL (Israel) said during today’s debate, a few speakers, in particular the Permanent Observer for Palestine, had used the issue to single out Israel for criticism.  Such criticism directed at one country was not intended to alleviate the situation of Palestinian children, but to advance a political agenda and isolate his country.  The situation facing Palestinian people and children was a serious one, and Israel had taken steps to alleviate that situation.  The situation, however, was a product of the decision of the Palestinian Authority to continue violence and to participate in a campaign of terrorism.  Israel had never, and would never, intentionally target Palestinian children or unarmed civilians, although he recognized that civilians had suffered.  But, in contrast to Palestinian actions, which had, for instance, targeted schoolbuses, Israeli operations were directed to avoid harming civilians.  The international community must condemn the practice of Palestinian leaders that actively encouraged the participation of children in the armed conflict.

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Mr. AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that any attempt by Israel to defend its criminal acts against Palestinians as a reaction to acts of violence by Palestinians was false.  The Israeli occupation and its abhorrent practices was what had led to the violent reaction of the Palestinian people, and not vice versa.  Also, the claims by Israel that it had mitigated the suffering of the Palestinian people were ironic.  In that regard, it was enough to refer to the Secretary-General’s reports on the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.

In addition, he continued, claiming that Israel had not targeted civilians and children was a lie.  Israel had deliberately murdered civilians.  Furthermore, the Israeli claim that the Palestinian side used children as human shields was a racist claim and reflected a sick mentality.  He hoped that the representatives of Israel and its leaders would get over such thinking.  Lastly, he hoped that the international community would truly stand up against the culture of impunity.

In concluding remarks, Mr. OTUNNU, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said he had taken careful note of the important comments and criticisms made by speakers and he would be in continuous dialogue with those speakers.  He would do everything possible to act on the proposals made.

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