The United States thanks Special Representative Zerrougi for her comments and also wishes to recognize former Special Representative Coomaraswamy for her excellent report and her tireless efforts to protect children from the devastating effects of armed conflict. The United States is deeply committed to protecting children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and the terrible suffering caused by armed conflict.
We greatly appreciate the success achieved by the Children and Armed Conflict process over the last six years under former Special Representative Coomaraswamy, including the signing of numerous Action Plans, the freeing of over 10,000 child soldiers and the abolition of child soldiering by almost all national authorities, and the strengthening and expansion of monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
The SRSG’s report notes that the Governments of Afghanistan, Chad, Somalia and South Sudan have now made child protection commitments to stop unlawful recruitment of children and to secure the release of those already unlawfully recruited into their armed forces. We are pleased that the Government of Burma has also signed an action plan to end the recruitment of children into its armed forces. We call on parties that have not signed an action plan to do so as soon as possible.
The United States is concerned about deeply disturbing information the Special Representative has presented regarding the use of explosive weapons by governments and non state actors, which leads to unlawful killing and maiming of non-combatants and other civilians not directly participating in hostilities. It is also cowardly and unacceptable to use improvised explosive devices attacks on schools and hospitals in situations of armed conflict.
The March judgment of the International Criminal Court convicting Thomas Lubanga of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the Congolese Forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities highlighted this issue of paramount international concern. The conviction puts perpetrators and would-be perpetrators of unlawful child soldier recruitment on notice that their crimes will not go unpunished. More, however, needs to be done.
The United States would like to engage with incoming Special Representative Zerrougi and ask for her perspective on how we can improve the situation of children in armed conflict. We would like to solicit her views on how best to seek action against persistent perpetrators of offenses and abuses against children in armed conflict. Ambassador de La Sablière, the former French Permanent Representative, noted in his report on the Children and Armed Conflict process that this is the next important issue for those working in this area. We look forward to working with SRSG Zerrougi and all who are committed to this process to address the issue more effectively.