UN Secretary General Calls for Greater Efforts to Tackle Child Rights Violations in Afghanistan

Greater efforts are needed to end grave violations against children in Afghanistan, including their use as child soldiers, sexual violence, killing and maiming, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report to the Security Council.

In his report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, covering the period from 1 September 2008 to 30 August 2010, Mr. Ban acknowledges that progress has been made since his last report, especially in terms of dialogue with the Government on the protection of children.

Last month the UN and the Afghan Government signed an agreement in which the country made a commitment to protect children affected by armed conflict and to prevent the recruitment of minors into the national armed forces.

“I urge the Government to ensure that adequate resources are allocated for effective implementation of the Action Plan, including introducing legislation aimed at criminalizing the recruitment of children in armed conflict and ensuring that no impunity is granted for grave violations against children under international law,” Mr. Ban writes.

But, according to information collected through the Country Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting, grave violations against children have increased during the reporting period, says the report.

“The recruitment and use of children by parties to the conflict was observed throughout the country during the two-year reporting period,” it states. While many cases reported by the media and other sources could not be confirmed owing to access and security considerations, the Country Task Force verified 26 out of 47 reported incidents that provide evidence that children were recruited by armed groups as well as by Afghan National Security Forces, including the Afghan National Police.

In addition, cases of children who carried out suicide attacks or who were used to plant explosives, at times unknowingly, were reported. These incidents often led to the deaths of the children involved, notes the report.

Children continued to be detained in international military forces detention facilities in contravention of international law, according to the report, which adds that there is concern that such detainees are not treated in line with international standards for juvenile justice.

During the reporting period, 1,795 children were injured or killed because of conflict-related violence although the figures are assumed to be underreported as access to conflict-affected areas remained difficult. Children continued to be casualties of suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices and rocket attacks by armed groups, including the Taliban.

They have also been victims of air strikes and night searches by pro-government forces. In addition, 568 children were injured or killed as a result of landmines and other explosive remnants of war during the reporting period.

Sexual violence, including that against children, is “pervasive” and continues to be vastly underreported and concealed in Afghan society, the Secretary-General points out.

“The general climate of impunity, a vacuum in the rule of law, lack of faith in investigating and prosecuting authorities, and misplaced shame have adversely affected the reporting of sexual violence and abuse against children to law enforcement authorities and subsequent prosecution of perpetrators,” he writes.

“Child sexual abuse, against both girls and boys, is not clearly defined as a crime in Afghan law, and perpetrators of such violations are rarely held accountable.”

Mr. Ban strongly encourages the Government to work closely with the Country Task Force to strengthen reporting under Security Council resolution 1882 (2009) on sexual violence against children and killing and maiming of children, and to ensure an appropriate and swift programme and accountability response for victims of such violations.