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Rights of the Child

14-04-2003 Statement

59th Annual Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Agenda item 13 - 14 April 2003. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross

Madam Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the major steps undertaken to provide better protection for children affected by armed conflict, especially child soldiers.

This year is the first anniversary of the coming into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

On 30 January 2003, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1460 (2003) on children in armed conflicts. In particular, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the protection of children in armed conflict is included as a specific aspect of all his reports to the Security Council on country-specific situations.

Nevertheless, the ICRC cannot help but observe that the plight of child soldiers continues.

It once again calls on States to ensure prompt ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which makes it a war crime to enlist children under 15.

Child soldiers – and indeed all children affected by war – are a matter of particular concern to the ICRC. Our action to assist them takes a number of forms.

International humanitarian law confers general protection on child ren, through the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, and specific protection enshrined in at least 25 articles found in various legal instruments.

The ICRC is continually reminding all parties to conflicts of the need to ratify and comply with these laws. The ICRC’s Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law is willing to help States draft national legislation to implement the provisions of international law that apply in armed conflict, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Art. 38) and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

The ICRC’s programmes to promote international humanitarian law among the armed forces, police and armed groups also cover the question of children.

One of the aims of our work in the field is to provide the protection that international humanitarian law guarantees to children. In 2002, the ICRC registered almost 4,000 children who were unaccompanied or separated from their families, and reunited over 1,000 with their families. We visited almost 2,500 child detainees to assess their living conditions – especially in terms of safety, food and hygiene. The ICRC continues to provide relief, medical, nutritional and limb-fitting services for children, just as we do for any other victim of armed conflict.

The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with the support of the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, are running programmes to promote the psychological and social reintegration of children.

The ICRC and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement call on all States to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, to heed the suffering of children affected by armed conflict and to work to alleviate their suffering.

Thank you, Madam Chairperso n.