Statement by H. E. Mr. Margus Kolga, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations at the Open Debate in the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict
I would like to join the others
by thanking the Security Council for organizing this open debate and by
expressing gratitude to the President of the Council, for his continuous
efforts as chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed
Conflict. This is an issue that certainly deserves the attention of the Security
Council, the body with the primary responsibility for international peace and
security. Estonia welcomes the resolution that was adopted today.
Estonia fully aligns itself with
the statement delivered by the European Union.
Allow me also to
convey our gratitude to the
former Special Representative of the Secretary-General
for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms Radhika
Coomaraswamy, for her valuable work and to welcome Ms Leila Zerrougui to her
new post. We assure Ms Zerrougui of our full support.
welcomes the Secretary General’s report to which the today`s debate primarily
focuses. It is of utmost importance that the Secretary General`s report continues
to be delivered in its current form, with both annexes.
The rights of the child are
one of Estonia`s human rights
priorities. The United Nations has an
important role in advocating and protecting the global system of human rights
standards, including the rights of the child. There are a range of tools that
the UN system, including its principal organs, have to either prevent or react
to human rights violations – the Human Rights Council is one of the most
important of them. Estonia is applying for the membership of the Council for
the years 2013-2015 and looks forward
to advancing the agenda of children’s rights as member of the Human Rights Council.
Estonia strongly condemns all
kinds of violence against children and violation of children`s rights. We are
very concerned about the reports of children being tortured and targeted in
Syria. According to the Chair of the Independent International Commission of
Inquiry, Mr. Paulo Pinheiro, who presented the Commissions last report only 2
days ago in Geneva, “the gross violations of human rights have grown in number,
in pace and in scale. Civilians, many of them children, are bearing the brunt
of the spiraling violence”. He also pointed out that half of the 1.2 million
internally displaced persons are children. Estonia calls upon all parties
involved in the conflict to respect their obligations under international
humanitarian law and protect children.
Often perpetrators of grave
violations against children in situations of armed conflict enjoy impunity. Currently
53 parties are listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report on
Children and Armed Conflict. We are alarmed that this year the number of persistent
perpetrators doubled to 32.
However, there is also reason for
hope. In addition to the progress on signing action plans to end the
recruitment of child soldiers, we welcome the two milestone verdicts on Thomas
Lubanga Dyilo and Charles Taylor. In its first ever judgment, the International
Criminal Court found the rebel leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty for
recruiting and using child soldiers in hostilities in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo. The hybrid Special Court for Sierra Leone, for its part, found
Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, guilty of aiding and abetting
war crimes including the use of child soldiers. These convictions are important
steps in advancing the rights of children by lending credence to the
international community’s commitment to end impunity for the recruitment and
use of children in armed conflict.
these verdicts are a powerful warning signal to perpetrators, having thus a
deterrent effect. Ms Coomaraswamy, already stated in 2010, when she gave her
testimony as expert witness before the ICC, that the ICC’s prosecution of the
crime of child recruitment encouraged many groups to approach the UN to
negotiate action plans for the release of children from their ranks. This
illustrates the important effects criminal proceedings against perpetrators of
worst human rights violations can have. Estonia agrees with the
Secretary-General that amnesties should not be applied to individuals who
recruited or recruit children.
While Mr Lubanga's conviction is
a landmark, more must be done to address the problem globally. We call on all
States that have not yet done so to join the Rome Statute of the ICC. States should
also extend their full cooperation to the ICC, including by identifying and
locating witnesses, arresting and surrendering accused persons in their
territories, and cooperating in the implementation of reparations to the
Even in ideal circumstances, international
courts and tribunals can only hope to prosecute a small number of perpetrators.
And while effective investigations and prosecutions at the national level are
potentially powerful tools to deter future crimes by closing the impunity gap,
they are often stymied by lack of resources, willingness and capacity. We must
therefore strengthen national judicial systems to investigate and prosecute
grave violations, including those against children. We support the Secretary-General’s
recommendation to States to enact appropriate national legislation to
criminalize grave violations against children. We call upon the international
donor community, UN agencies and other partners to support Member States in developing
and strengtheninf national capacity for this purpose.
We also welcome Ambassador de la
Sablière’s action-oriented report on the Security Council
engagement on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflict and strongly support
his recommendation that the Security Council should pursue a complementary approach
with the ICC, which would exert strong pressure on certain individuals and
entities. We are pleased to be able to note that the basis for increased
cooperation between the Court and the UN was created by testimony of the former
Special Representative in the Lubanga
Raising awareness at the local
level towards the association of children with armed groups is of the utmost
importance. We cannot achieve tangible success if children`s rights are not
considered to be universal norms globally. The role of civil society and local
non-governmental organizations cannot be underestimated in this context. The local
community plays a key role in collecting information on possible violations.
NGOs ought not impeded in their work nor be instrumentalized by states.
In disseminating information on
children`s rights and especially on the issue of children in armed conflict, social
media and modern information and communication technology should be used more
broadly. A good example of this is the Children and Armed Conflict Smart-Phone
Application, which was launched today by the Mission of Liechtenstein in
cooperation with Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and the SR SG for Children
and Armed Conflict.
I would like to finish with the
quote of the former Sierra Leonean child soldier and the author of the published memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Ishmael Beah: “[....]We as the human beings, as nations, as the
international community, have the capacity to end the use of children in war.
We must not waste another minute [....]”.