Accountability for Crimes Against Children is Key to Peace and Security


UN Security Council's Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, September 19, 2012. PHOTO: ICTJ

In an address to the UN Security Council, ICTJ President David Tolbert urged States to prioritize transitional justice as an integrated approach to seeking accountability for crimes against children in armed conflict.

Read ICTJ’s remarks here.

Soon after the annual Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict began, a semi-circle of hands were raised as the Security Council passed a resolution calling for more work to be done on accountability for violations against children. In their statements, States repeatedly identified children as the most vulnerable in situations of conflict, and called for more to be done to end grave abuses such as sexual violence, forced recruitment, killing or maiming children.

Leila Zerrougui, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, also addressed the council.

The floor of the council chamber was hushed as Tolbert urged the council to prioritize national proceedings and enhance the capabilities of domestic jurisdiction to do justice for killing, sexual abuse or forcible recruiting of children in conflict.

Prosecutions, which are essential, should be carried out in tandem with truth-seeking, reparation programs, and institutional reform.
    Tolbert asserted that accountability is best achieved through a comprehensive approach to justice, one which not only addresses the responsibility of perpetrators, but promotes and protects the rights of victims within a broader process of social change. Prosecutions, which are essential, should be carried out in tandem with truth-seeking, reparation programs and institutional reform.

“If we are to effectively confront violations against children and their consequences, we must be able to understand the underlying causes and the patterns of their occurrence. Truth-seeking mechanisms such as truth commissions can address these factors, ” Tolbert said. “Military and security forces or armed groups that engage in criminal acts such as recruitment of child soldiers must be thoroughly restructured as part of a process of institutional reform, if such unacceptable practices are to be eradicated. And reparations are crucial if we are to address the long-term consequences of suffering inflicted upon children.”

ICTJ specifically asked the Security Council to leverage international resources and expertise to support national processes and to place a greater focus on integrated approach to accountability in Action Plans UN enters with parties responsible for violations against children.

ICTJ was the only non-governmental organization to be invited to address the council at the session. “After seeing first-hand the importance and potential of including children in transitional justice processes, we were thrilled that our program was invited to share findings of our work,” said Virginie Ladisch, head of ICTJ’s Children and Youth Program.

Tolbert stressed that the Council “should continue to recognize that the protection of children - and accountability for serious crimes and grave violations against them -are part of the Council’s role in upholding peace and security.”

“We at ICTJ strongly believe that an integrated approach to accountability through the full range of transitional justice mechanisms and increased support for national processes will assist the Security Council and the community of nations in its efforts to end crimes against those most vulnerable among us – the children caught up in armed conflict,“ concluded ICTJ president.

Learn more about ICTJ's work on children and youth here.

The UN Security Council debate can be viewed below. David Tolbert's address begins at 48:46.