ADVT organizes Side-event on child victims of terrorism during 40th Session of the UNHRC
The Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism (ADVT) organized a Side-event called "Grief of Children in Search of Justice" during the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Among the participants were representatives of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), Insan organization, and Children's Movement for Children.
Dušan Vejinović, Senior Research Analyst at the European Foundation for South Asian Studies, emphasized that it took the UN General Assembly almost 30 years to adopt the first Geneva Conventions of 1949 owing to the volatile and constantly changing environment, moreover because, different kinds of wars have developed after World War II.
He argued that it should be taken into account that more than three decades have past, yet new types of war have arisen, but with different approaches.
Philippe Jaffe emphasized that the rule of law should better accommodate the access to justice of victims. In one of the articles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child it is said that States should provide facilitation for children who are victims of any kind of violence. He stated that children are the most vulnerable groups of society. Therefore, request for reparation is one of the most fundamental needs of victims, especially for children.
He continued saying that access to justice should be better implemented in the judicial system. Such children may have severe psychological problems or lose their hope or have feelings of resentment. According to the documents of the Committee of the Rights of the Child, when children live in a hostile environment, their voices are rarely heard. A respectful approach and behaviour towards children could prevent their re-victimization. Therefore, access to justice and restoration of the dignity of children is of major importance.
Dr. Najandimanesh, international relations professor at Allameh Tabataba'i University, moderated the side-event and said that terrorism as a blind crime, committed against human beings in every place, especially against children. The Rome Statue does not cover children as victims of terrorism because terrorism is not considered a crime according to the ICC.
Not considering children as victims could have devastating effects on them. States should take legal measures to protect children against terrorist attacks or recruitment by terrorist groups. Hence, that should reviewed by the Rome Statue.
Anicee van Engeland, lecturer at the University of Cranfield, said children are the most vulnerable people. When they are victimized, their life will be affected in the future. There is no legal instrument for protecting children after the incident. The same also applies to victims of ISIL. Furthermore, international law has little to offer to defend children abandoned in Sinjar due to ISIL attack. And also there is little to offer to children born from jihadi brides or those who have become killers owing to ISIL training. The silence in the legal provisions should be addressed urgently. The rights of children are marginalized in international law. We should protect children from being victims of terrorism.
Yoana Barakova, Research Analyst at the European Foundation for South Asian Studies, said that child victims of terrorism often carry certain major features such as poverty, young age, limited education, and lack of work opportunities. Terrorist groups in general target helpless individuals. Therefore, war-torn States, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region of Jammu & Kashmir, create favourable conditions where thousands of displaced persons become a perfect prey once they already lack safe and secure shelter.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban increasingly use madrassas, to provide military training to children between ages of 13 and 17. Despite the fact that there is no concrete number on how many children are recruited and are currently fighting in Afghanistan, the UN Task Force gives out estimates for the period between 2010 to 2014 of 560 children involved as combatants.
In the last few decades, the international community has created numerous legal instruments in order to protect and enforce the rights of children. These conventions provide an international legal framework that prohibits the use of violence against children as well as outlaws the recruitment of children by state and non-state actors. According to one the legal instruments those who commit, assist, or have command responsibility for war crimes are subject to prosecution by the ICC. What, though, becomes problematic is the three-year perpetrator/victim gap created by Rome Statue that renders this demographic group invisible at the ICC.
Fortunately, the leap between radicalization and actual engagement in terrorism is vast, yet, without attempting to find a solution and deal with the former, all strategies applied to the latter will be futile. EFSAS reiterated that it condemns the victimization of any human being especially children anywhere by anyone.
Zohreh Hagh Panahi, survivor of terrorism and a member of the Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, said that effects of terrorism on children are widespread and prolonged. According to her, they are the most vulnerable people since the effects of any form of violence on them are long-lasting.
One of the most common disorders children affected by terrorism suffer is trauma or PTSD with the symptoms of severe fear, agitation, nightmares, crying without any reason, reconstruction of the incident, psychiatric numbness, nail biting, consistent stress and impatience.
She added that international laws are not sufficient for protecting the rights of children. This can be done by representatives of political and legal communities and thus it is necessary to establish a "Global Foundation for rehabilitation of Children Affected by Armed Conflicts and Terrorism".
Ms. Mansoureh Karami, president of the Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, emphasized on the prevention of children against the negative impacts caused by terrorism, which includes a collection of various measures and approaches.
She argued that it is also necessary to take measures to maintain the normal life of children who have already been affected and to decrease the negative effects. Some of the measures include: making reparations to the families of the victims, creating an international fund for the recovery of the victims and limiting states sponsoring terrorism and extremism in abusing children and their families.
Ms. Ranjbar Pazooki stated that future life opportunities for children have often been shattered by terrorism and extremism, illustrating how terror and horror have spread around the world and violence against children has undermined the development of society and has imposed a threat to the next generations.
Views expressed are of Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism (ADVT) and do not necessarily coincide with the views held by EFSAS.