Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
Section A. Special protection
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) provides: “Children shall be the object of special respect and protection. They shall be provided with the care and aid they require, whether because of their youth or for any other reasons.” It adds: “If they fall into the power of an adverse party, they shall be granted special protection.”
In 2003, during a debate in the UN Security Council, the representative of Germany stated:
“Helpless outrage is a characteristic emotion of the global age”, a journalist writing about child war amputees from Freetown recently observed. I think that all of us feel outrage at the devastating effect of armed conflict on children. We are outraged at the cynicism and cruelty of adults who steal the childhood of boys and girls by making them fight in their wars.
The Council is one of the few bodies in the world that does not have to confine itself to “helpless outrage”. The Council can act. Germany is very pleased at the coincidence that its first public address to the Council should deal with children and armed conflict. This issue belongs firmly on the Council’s agenda. Germany will do whatever it can to ensure that we do not stop at debate but also take action …
We thank the Secretary-General, Mr. Olara Otunnu and Ms. Carol Bellamy for their opening remarks and for their reminders that we need practical and concrete progress on the pressing issues facing us.
Germany welcomes this year’s report by the Secretary-General.
Germany fully supports the Special Representative’s call for a vigorous monitoring effort by the United Nations to ensure that States fulfil their international obligations. The list annexed to this report is an important starting point. However, monitoring will only succeed if those who refuse to cooperate and to act upon their international obligations face consequences. We support every effort of the Council to add bite to these monitoring efforts. And we support Olara Otunnu’s concept of systematic monitoring as a trigger for action, as just set out in his opening remarks.
The Council has made promising progress towards including the rights of the child in its deliberations and actions with regard to specific country situations. The inclusion of child protection units in peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, most recently, Angola has helped to bring the problem into sharp relief. We are eager to hear about further results from these new components of peacekeeping operations. Germany considers it crucial that the Council take the rights of the child into account in all its country-specific actions. The problems facing us are by no means confined to the three aforementioned countries of Africa.
Urgent action is needed in many other fields as well. The Secretary-General’s report once again deals with the cruel effects of anti-personnel mines on children. Germany is strongly committed to the fight against anti-personnel landmines. It is crucial to enhance these efforts and to coordinate efforts in mine action. This is a field where every additional effort yields immediate results. Each mine we clear saves lives.
Many more pressing matters in this debate call for urgent action. They include the aspects of gender, humanitarian access and sexual exploitation – also by peacekeepers. Some of these will be touched upon by my colleague from Greece in his statement for the European Union, with which Germany fully associates itself.
The Council will hopefully soon adopt a further resolution on children and armed conflict. Germany has joined other members of the Council to make the draft resolution as action-oriented as possible …
Allow me to conclude by saying that the Secretary-General’s report underscores the importance of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. We believe that both UNICEF and the Special Representative, as well as other actors in the United Nations system, have crucial and complementary roles to play in this field. We encourage them and all Member States to join efforts in a spirit of common purpose.
In 2004, during a debate in the UN Security Council, the representative of Germany stated:
Women and children are among the most vulnerable groups in times of conflict, whether they be civilians or child soldiers … In particular, children suffer. They are defenceless in situations of conflict if separated from or deprived of their parents, and their ability to cope with a quickly changing environment is very restricted. Many children without protection are being kidnapped and made child soldiers. Forcing children to carry arms rather than letting them develop peacefully is one of the cruellest acts. Women and children are also, to an unprecedented extent, victims of severe and atrocious sexual violence.
Germany thus proposes the following measures.
The first is a new resolution on the protection of civilians; the most recent resolution that the Security Council adopted on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (resolution 1296 (2000)) dates from 2000. That resolution, as well as the preceding relevant resolution (resolution 1265 (1999)), were regarded as a starting point. After four years we feel the need for an update of the most recent resolution, to take into account recent developments and the changing character of conflicts. Germany would support efforts aimed at adopting a new resolution.
A second measure would be more frequent reporting by the Emergency Relief Coordinator …
A third measure would be the promotion of the responsibility of new actors. There are new actors in the area of the protection of civilians in armed conflict whom we have to deal with. More than ever before, we need constructive engagement with non-State armed groups. They not only have the potential to deny humanitarian actors humanitarian access; they actually do it. They are also a potential source of harm to the civilian populations where they operate. Without legitimizing them and their actions, we must explore innovative ways to engage them in a constructive dialogue and, where necessary, to pressure them to make them abide by international humanitarian law and human rights norms.
In 2005, in its Seventh Human Rights Policy Report submitted to the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament), Germany’s Federal Government stated:
On the basis of the 2003 EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict and the relating 2004 Plan of Action, [the Federal Government] together with its EU partners will work towards better protection of children in armed conflict, and to this purpose
- will demand respect for international humanitarian law and for other norms on the protection of children in armed conflicts …
In 2007, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Germany stated:
2. Both in the United Nations and in the European Union (EU) context as well as bilaterally, the Federal Government firmly supports an improvement in the protection of children in armed conflicts, including implementation of the Optional Protocol and its application if possible on a worldwide basis.
3. Hence Germany is involved, together with its EU partners, in the rigorous application of the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict of December 2003. In the wake of a review of this Guideline in December 2005, the EU adopted Council conclusions with recommendations of a more extensive nature, and in April 2006 it also adopted an implementation strategy for the application of these recommendations. Their implementation will be a main focus of attention when Germany holds the EU Council Presidency during the first six months of the year 2007.
4. In May 2006 the EU States adopted a new batch of measures for bringing the subject of “protection of children in armed conflicts” into European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) operations.
5. In July 2006 Germany gave its support – together with its EU partners – to a declaration by the President of the Security Council on the subject of “Children and Armed Conflict”, which, amongst other things, contains an appeal to the international community of States to make a common effort to bring about a distinct improvement in the protection of children in conflict situations of this kind.
6. Germany is also one of the States that has been giving financial and political support, from the very outset, to the Office of the Special Representative for children and armed conflict, which was established in 1996.
In 2010, in reply to a Minor Interpellation in the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament) entitled “Treatment of child soldiers by the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) during operations abroad”, Germany’s Federal Government wrote:
8. Which procedures are envisaged for the treatment of child soldiers injured, apprehended or detained by the Bundeswehr?
In the completed operation EUFOR RD CONGO, the following framework was adopted regarding apprehended or detained children and included in the pocket card of June 2006 for the German contingent of the operation EUFOR RD CONGO:
a) As far as possible they are to be treated in a child-sensitive way.
b) If there are doubts about the age of the apprehended individuals, they are to be treated as children.
f) Rights and obligations of parents or carers are to be respected as much as possible.
Moreover, armed confrontations with children or information that they are being used in armed groups are to be reported.
The Federal Government also wrote:
18. Does the Federal Government share the view that under-age members of Afghan armed groups should be treated differently than adults in case of detention?
a) If so, how is this currently ensured by the Bundeswehr, other ISAF troops and the Afghan authorities?
b) If not, why not?
In the view of the Federal Government all detained minors are to be treated in accordance with international law, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol.
The Federal Government further wrote:
19. In the course of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), was there an agreement on special procedures for dealing with child soldiers?
a) If so, which ones?
b) If not, why was this considered not to be necessary?
The Bundeswehr does not contribute forces to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
Within ISAF, the ISAF rules inter alia contain the following provisions on the potential detention of minors:
a) The search of children is to be carried out particularly carefully and only in the presence of a superior.
b) In case a detainee person possibly is younger than 18 years, he or she is to be treated with special care.