COUNTRYSIDE, Illinois — In the years since The Machel Report “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” to the U.N. General Assembly in 1996, the Secretary-General has identified, categorized, and developed 6 grave violations against children in wartimes.
These egregious abuses form the framework upon which the Security Council fulfills its resolve to establish the protection of children from armed conflict as a priority for all nations. They further form a foundation upon which to gather evidence of violations and hold perpetrators accountable.
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is defined as “every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”
In the 2013 update to “Working Paper No. 1” published by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Six Grave Violations against children during armed conflict are outlined as follows:
Grave Violation 1: Recruitment and use of children
“Parties to conflict must not recruit or use children as combatants or other support roles. Parties to conflict must prevent children from participating in hostilities.” This violation addresses not only the recruitment of children as soldiers but also their arrest, detention, or imprisonment and their reintegration into society.
Grave Violation 2: Killing and maiming of children
“Parties to conflict must protect children from being killed, maimed or injured.” This violation addresses direct attacks and willful wartime abuse of children. All civilians are afforded this protection from both government and non-state armed troops by the Geneva Conventions.
However, children are especially protected because all parties to a conflict must prioritize the welfare of children and other vulnerable groups.
Grave Violation 3: Sexual violence against children
“Parties to conflict are prohibited from subjecting children to rape and other forms of sexual violence.” This violation addresses the sexual abuse of both boys and girls. It includes any form of indecent assault, such as forced prostitution, marriage, pregnancy or sterilization.
Grave Violation 4: Attacks against schools and hospitals
“Parties to conflict must not attack schools or hospitals, education or medical personnel.” Schools and hospitals provide for children’s needs in times of war as well as peace. In wartime, they are considered to be civilian objects.
Parties to conflict must distinguish between civilian and military objects and not directly or willfully attack civilian buildings and their employees.
The identification of this violation also addresses the need to stop armed parties from using schools for military purposes further addressed in the Lucens Guidelines included in the Safe Schools Declaration.
Grave Violation 5: Abduction of children
“Parties to conflict must not abduct children.” This violation explicitly refers to the enforced disappearance of children against their will or that of their legal guardians. The abduction of children usually leads to the sale or trafficking of children.
These egregious actions in turn lead to the first three grave violations against children as well: recruitment, killing or maiming and rape or other sexual abuses.
Grave Violation 6: Denial of humanitarian access
“Parties to conflict must not deny humanitarian access for children.” Humanitarian access for children refers to relief supplies and personnel. Humanitarian workers must be free to distribute food supplies, medicine and clothing to children as well as to expectant mothers.
“Working Paper No. 1” further details the legal foundations to affirm these 6 violations as grave breaches of international law. The key legal sources fall into four categories: international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international jurisprudence and Security Council Resolutions on children and armed conflict.
These laws, among many others, include The Four Geneva Conventions, Conventions on the Rights of the Child, U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, Convention against Torture and The Rome Statute and case law of the International Criminal Court.
In recent years, perpetrators have been held accountable and prevented from making further violations. Since 2005, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) of the U. N. has been monitoring, collecting and documenting information in 15 countries on the Six Grave Violations against children during armed conflict.
The Secretary-General uses these MRM findings to “name and shame” parties who commit these heinous violations around the world in his annual report.
To tailor the MRM information in specific situations in different countries, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict consistently reviews the findings and recommends ways to better protect children.
These MRM findings are disseminated around the world by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a network of international non-governmental organizations. This helps to provide responses to the immediate needs of child victims as well as advocate for better global child protection policies.
– Janet Quinn