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The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the fourth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq (S/2022/46), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To the armed conflict in Iraq, in particular the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also referred to as Da’esh, while it also concerns all other parties mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF):

  • Strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in Iraq, and noting with concern the disproportionate negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, which further exacerbated existing challenges; demanding that all parties to conflict immediately end and prevent all abuses and violations against children, including those involving killing and maiming of children, the recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abduction, and the denial of humanitarian access, and to comply with their obligations under international law;
  • Calling upon all parties to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Iraq (S/AC.51/2020/4);
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict and stressing that all those responsible must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through timely and systematic investigations, and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction;
  • Stressing that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, and that the particular needs and vulnerabilities of girls and boys, including those disproportionately affected, should be duly considered, when planning and carrying out actions concerning children in situations of armed conflict;
  • Welcoming the significant decrease in cases of recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict identified in the report; urging all parties to release immediately and without preconditions all children who may be associated with them, to hand them over to relevant civilian child protection actors in coordination with the respective Iraqi authorities and to end and prevent the further recruitment and use of children, consistent with their obligations under international law, including, as applicable, the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict;
  • Expressing concern about the increasingly high number of incidents of deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed forces or armed groups, or for the association or alleged association of their parents or relatives, including with terrorist groups who are designated by the Security Council, primarily Da’esh; noting the significant challenges faced by those detained in gaining access to legal, social and other services; and urging all parties to conflict to treat associated children, including those who may have committed crimes, primarily as victims of recruitment and use, to work to ensure their full reintegration through family- and community-based reintegration programmes, including access to health care, mental health and psychosocial support and inclusive, equitable and quality education programmes, as well as raising awareness and working with communities to avoid stigmatization of these children and facilitate their return, to provide access to the United Nations to all detention centres and any other facilities in which children are held, in coordination with the respective Iraqi authorities, and to ensure that, where children face prosecution for allegedly committing crimes, those prosecutions are carried out with respect for the rights of the child, and that alternatives to judicial proceedings should be sought for children, in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and urging the relevant parties and Governments, including the countries of origin of foreign children deprived of liberty in Iraq, to cooperate with the United Nations and the Iraqi authorities to seek rights-based durable solutions;
  • Expressing grave concern at the incidents of children killed and maimed, noting that the majority of cases were caused by explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices and that children were harmed while herding livestock in surrounding areas of villages or playing predominantly in areas that had been previously under Da’esh control, urging all parties to take all action necessary to better protect children and prevent such acts, especially with a view to ensuring that children are protected from explosive remnants of war, calling upon all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid and in any event minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects;
  • Expressing deep concern at cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children, noting that incidents of sexual violence continue to be underreported and that none were verified  during the reporting period, and expressing deep concern at the lack of access to appropriate services for survivors,  and further expressing concern that movement restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have increased vulnerabilities and risk factors for survivors and victims of sexual violence, strongly urging all parties to the armed conflict to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children and stressing the importance of accountability for those responsible for sexual and gender-based violence against children; stressing the importance of providing non-discriminatory and comprehensive specialized services, including mental health and psychosocial support, health, including sexual and reproductive health services, legal and livelihood support and services to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence;
  • Strongly condemning the attack on a health centre verified during the reporting period; expressing deep concern at numbers of incidents of military use of schools and the disruption caused to the education of Iraqi children; calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel as such, and to end and prevent attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel as well as the military use of schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international law, and calling on all parties to take concrete measures to facilitate the continuation of education of Iraqi children, consistent with Resolution 2601 (2021);
  • Expressing deep concern at the abduction of children, and calling upon the concerned party to cease the abduction of children and immediately release all abducted children;
  • Strongly condemning incidents of denial of humanitarian access, and calling upon all parties to allow and facilitate safe, timely, and unhindered humanitarian access to children, including to children in internally displaced persons camps or detention independent of their legal status, consistent with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid, to respect international humanitarian law and to respect the work of all United Nations agencies and their humanitarian partners without adverse distinction;
  • Underlining the importance of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognizing that a strong focus is needed on combating poverty, deprivation and inequality to prevent and protect children from all violations and abuses in the context of armed conflict in Iraq and to promote the resilience of children, their families and their communities and the importance of promoting education for all and peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and calling on the international community to remain strongly committed to providing support to Iraq for its humanitarian, stabilization, reconstruction and development efforts;

To Da’esh

  • Condemning in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent violations and abuses and extreme violence committed against children, including children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities, by Da’esh, including their killing and maiming, abduction, rape and other forms of sexual violence, noting that such violations and abuses may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity; and furthermore reaffirming that terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed
  • Strongly urging Da’esh to immediately:
  • Cease all attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects, including those resulting in the killing and maiming of children, and comply fully with international humanitarian law by, inter alia, putting an end to any targeting of the civilian population, especially children, as well as to disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks in populated areas, including through terror tactics, attacks by suicide bombers or any other forms of extreme violence or the indiscriminate use of weapons, in particular improvised explosive devices, and any use of weapons prohibited by international law;
  • End and prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, including through abduction, end the military training of children and release without preconditions all children who remain under their control;
  • Cease the rape of and other forms of sexual violence against children, such as child, early and forced marriage, sexual slavery and human trafficking for sexual exploitation, including against children belonging to ethnic and religious minorities;
  • Cease the abduction of children and all violations and abuses committed against abducted children, notably girls who face higher rates of abductions in Iraq, and release without preconditions all abducted children, and allow for swift family reunification in the best interests of the child or provide information as to their fate if no longer alive;

To community and religious leaders:

  • Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict;
  • Urging community and religious leaders to strengthen community-level protection and to publicly condemn and continue to advocate ending and preventing violations and abuses against children, in particular those involving the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks and threats of attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions and denial of humanitarian access, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support the reintegration of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of these children.

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