Thursday, April 17, 2014

Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict meeting

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
at the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict meeting

Mr. Chairman,

Please allow me to begin by thanking you for convening today’s meeting on children in armed conflict and for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan.  I wish to further extend appreciation for the great efforts of the working group in developing conclusions on the basis of the Secretary General’s report on the situation of children in Afghanistan and for taking into account our concerns.

The Government of Afghanistan views the role of the Security Council as important in protecting the rights of children during armed conflict. We are committed to implementing all relevant Security Council Resolutions concerning the protection of children, including 1612 and to taking all measures to ensure the protection of Afghan children.

Mr. Chairman,

As the working group gathers to formally adopt its conclusions, I have the honor of reflecting upon its findings and recommendations.  The Afghan Government shares the sentiment of the Working Group in responding favorably to the Secretary General’s report.  We have begun to implement the Action Plan signed by the Afghan Government and the UN Country Task Force on monitoring and reporting regarding Children Associated with National Security Forces in Afghanistan on 30 January 2011.  The Afghan Government is currently providing training to the relevant Ministry focal points which conduct periodic field visits throughout the country.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Afghanistan, in close cooperation with NATO and ISAF, is working fervently to review and eliminate isolated incidences of recruitment of young people which took place mistakenly and in violation of our national law.

Furthermore, Shura Ulema, the Religious Council of Afghanistan, has issued a Fatwa, or religious decree, declaring the sexual abuse of young boys by adults reflected in terms of Bacha Baazi as well as recruitment of children under the age of 18 to be against Islamic values.  Any misuse of children or form of sexual violence against children is considered a crime punishable by law.  The Government has taken necessary steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of Bacha Baazi and to implement serious punishments.  This practice has been sensationalized widely by media sources who are hungry for attention-grabbing stories.  While the tragedy of sexual abuse of children is not limited to Afghanistan, in our country it is an unfortunate effect of the protracted absence of law enforcement institutions.  We are firmly committed to ending this immoral and anti-Islamic practice.

Mr. Chairman,

We share the conviction of the Working Group that it is necessary to respect the rules of international humanitarian law. However, we wish to emphasize, in this regard, the need to differentiate between the various actors involved, in line with our response to the use of the terminology, “all parties to the conflict,” in the Secretary General’s Report. The Government of Afghanistan, as well as NATO and ISAF have all reaffirmed their commitments to international humanitarian law. On the other hand, terrorist groups in Afghanistan and the region have continually and brutally disregarded such international norms and should not be categorized with international nor Government actors.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Afghanistan shares the deep concern expressed by the Working Group about the continued violations and abuses of Afghan children in the context of terrorist and non-State armed groups using children in suicide attacks and as human shields, as well as about the growing number of school children attacked directly by the Taliban and other groups. Just yesterday, a 12 year old boy who had been brainwashed by the Taliban was tragically used in a suicide attack to kill four civilians.  We, the Afghan Government and International Community, must redouble our efforts to ensure that these horrendous acts against the children of Afghanistan come to an end.

We recognize the concern of the Working Group in relation to children detained by the Afghan Government. However, I wish to emphasize that those children who have been detained due to their association with armed groups are detained separately from adults.  The Afghan Juvenile Rehabilitation Center is a separate facility and therefore detainees are not meant to undergo the same procedures as adults.

Following the fall of the Taliban, the Government of Afghanistan has taken numerous key steps to protect the rights of Afghan children, including the reform of the juvenile justice system. In order to guarantee the best interests of the children, as well as to comply with ratified international standards, a new Juvenile Code with eight chapters and sixty-six articles was promulgated. Decree No. 46 endorsed and enacted the Juvenile Code of Afghanistan. According to the new Juvenile Code, the minimum age of criminal responsibility was changed from 7 to 13 years of age. Afghanistan adopted the Juvenile Code – Procedural Law for Dealing with Children in Conflict with the Law in March 2005 incorporating the basic principles of juvenile justice as expressed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Afghanistan welcomes the efforts of the Working Group and appreciates the concerns of International Community toward the plight of Afghan children.  We look forward to further cooperation with the Working Group and relevant UN bodies in our implementation of the Action Plan. The children of Afghanistan need all of our efforts and cooperation in order to provide an environment that every child deserves, one in which they are safe to thrive in pursuit of their dreams.

I thank you.