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Children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators

Remarks by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict stressed at the Human Rights Council

During her presentation to the Human Rights Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict expressed concern with regard to issues related to children and justice including the detention and prosecution of children in situations of armed conflict.

“States are increasingly arresting and detaining children associated with armed groups, either because they are a threat to national security or because they have participated in hostilities,” SRSG Radhika Coomaraswamy said during the session.

When deprived of their liberty, children are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses.

According to her new publication, “Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict”, children are often tried in national and military courts without legal representation or assistance, are not accompanied by their parents and often do not possess a clear understanding of the charges brought against them.

“Given the forced nature and the root causes of their association with armed groups, and, considering their age, children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators,” the child rights advocate said and called on Member States to prosecute adult recruiters who force girls and boys to commit violations. Many are themselves abused, exploited and beaten into submission by their commanders while associated with an armed group.

The publication was launched the same day in an effort to bring conceptual clarity to children and justice-related matters including the question of how children who have suffered grave violations during armed conflict can seek justice.

During her presentation, SRSG Coomaraswamy also elaborated on the changing nature of war and its terrible impact on children. “Wherever aerial attacks occur, the technological potential to kill civilians including children, may result in devastating circumstances,” SRSG Coomaraswamy said. She called on all parties to minimize civilian causalities and characterised the use of girls and boys as suicide bombers and ‘victim’ bombers, “one of the most perverse developments in modern warfare.” The world should unite as one against these developments.

(In pic: Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and armed conflict addresses the 18th Session of the Human Rights Council. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)


  1. Sinhalaya says:

    We never gave damn about “NO FIRE ZONE” so we should give a damn about “Children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators”?

  2. SriLankan says:

    Today youth are in revolt throughout the world. The ageing leadership has failed in its task to hand over a decent society with priniples and values for their future. We observe ageing politicians well past their prime mucking up our future by playing the indispensable role. It was Charles de Gaulle who said that the cemetries are full of indispensable people.
    Today we elders try to hog the stage and deprieve the youth of their opportunity and future. We set the wrong examples. We teach then hate and racism in the guise of religon. We turn them into combatants and suicide bombers. We brainwash them in leadership camps. We mortgage their future to the IMF.
    We need to learn to step aside and let go. Bring them up, give them their rights and education. By all means guide and advise them. But do not think that we alone know all and can do all. Give the youth and children a chance.

  3. Merlin Van Tweest says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have reproduced a ‘Treatise on Children’ by the 12th century Persian poet and philosopher Kahil Gilbran that depicts my feelings entirely.

    A TREATISE ON CHILDREN – by Kahlil Gibran (12th century Persian Philosopher and Poet)

    And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘” Speak to us of Children”
    And he said:
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you.
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    Which, you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are, sent forth.

    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    And he bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness:
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable

  4. Shanthi says:

    For me and some of friends were affected by witnessing police brutality at our early age. (Not excesses of current standards or systematic torture) The police station where I come in the East was quite visible and audible. As a child even before I reached 9 years of age, I had seen enough police brutality. The screams and long winded “ammmaaaaaaaaa…” and “aiyooooo….” put me off the way the suspects were treated at the hands of civil force. My first kick below the belt was delivered by a Tamil police officer at the age 13. I was stunned and could not move when they were chasing away the on-lookers of ritual practice of physical beatings at the police. That was only violence I knew in early 70s. I grew up with one determination that such inhumane practice of man inflicting pain on another man must stop. On the contrary, such hatred for violence did not spare of violence. I ended up accepting the violence as the only course of action later…
    Even before the violence erupted to the level of genocidal / ethnic cleansing proportions of Tamils, muslims and sinhalese, the violence penetrated from class rooms to play grounds. As children we played violent games (without protection gear) and it is what children’s virtual games played from the comfort of swivel chairs. In Kallady a school child killed another for competing on studies. There was no child consription and it was not heard of. But, as children we wanted to join the militants just because of the insecurity created police bruality and treatment meted out on friends and relatives, followed by army atrocities…a phase that cannot be compared to earlier phases due to orphaned children. What kind of reconciliation measure or restitution can replace the lost parent, sibling or friend?
    Ms. Coomarasamy also must take note of sexual violence that was perpetrated by the state forces. In Batticaloa prisons, a group of men, dressed to intimidate, carried out torture of the worst form in my time. too grue some to continue..
    Thank you for letting me sharing some of thoughts.
    Please stop of this violence

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