Controversy at the Security Council: Children and Armed Conflict
Children and armed conflict or “CAAC” (as the unharmonious acronym goes), has become a controversial area of activity for the UN Security Council. Although the Security Council has adopted a series of important resolutions on the topic since 2005, its most recent foray into the fray led to four abstentions to Resolution 2068. Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia declined to support the resolution, which largely repeated the language of prior resolutions.
Why the controversy? Lurking behind attempts to address the induction of children into armed conflict situations are two important legal questions.
First, some query whether the definition of “armed conflict” established by the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols is met in the circumstances being investigated by the Special Rapporteur. Specifically, some of the situations included in the SRSG’s reports force the issue of what status non-state actors should have under IHL, and particularly whether non-state actors can control territory. In addition, its not clear whether the situations under investigation constitute sustained hostilities. The Legal Opinion published in the UN Juridical Yearbook (2009) highlights this controversy.
Second, some countries are concerned that the Security Council is engaging in “mission creep” by considering situations in countries that are not otherwise on its agenda. The Security Council addresses CAAC listed on Annex 2 created under SC Resolution 1882. Most of these countries are not, however, part of the “situations” the Security Council has jurisdiction over pursuant to the usual Chapter VII procedure. As a result, those suspicious of an activist Security Council assert situations are arriving on the Security Council’s agenda through a back door.
The biggest victims of the controversy are children. The persistence of sexual assaults, attacks on schools and hospitals, and recruitment of children into armies is serious. A number of countries have signed “action plans” with the UN to implement the principles in a concrete way. The ICC’s Lubanga judgment of August 2012 reinforced this effort – convicting him of conscription and enlistment of children under 15 for use in active hostilities. Similarly, the decision of the Special Court for Sierra Leone Tribunal in Taylor creates a strong legal framework to prosecute crimes against children. The feisty new Special Rapporteur Zarrougi is not holding her punches. She was to the point in her August 2012 report, and in her presentation to the Security Council in September.
Want to keep up to speed on this important issue? Download this impressive new app developed by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and Liechtenstein’s mission to the UN, which collates key documents and policy questions on the issue.