On April 18, 2017, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its fourth conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in Somalia on the basis of the Secretary-General’s report. The Somalia conclusion (public document forthcoming) is the second conclusion adopted by the Working Group this year, following the Colombia conclusions. The negotiations took place between February 14 and April 18. Overall, the Working Group Members were in agreement regarding the text; however, certain parts were reportedly met with strong objections by Ethiopia. Ahead of the conclusion negotiations, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (Watchlist) shared targeted policy recommendations with Working Group Members.

Watchlist is pleased with the Working Group’s strong encouragement for the Federal Government of Somalia to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). Watchlist is also pleased with the Working Group’s call to swiftly domesticate Somalia’s international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) ratified in October 2015, and to resolve existing legal ambiguities related to the definition of the child.

Watchlist also welcomes the conclusions’ provisions regarding the treatment of children for their alleged association with armed forces and/or armed groups. The Working Group expresses its grave concern about the detention of children on national security charges in violation of applicable international law, as well as about the use of detained children as spies in intelligence operations and counter-terrorism activities. It urges the Government to comply with its obligations under the CRC, namely that the deprivation of liberty for children should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time, and furthermore, that children associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims. Watchlist and its partners continue to raise concerns regarding treatment of children during counter-terrorism operations. Children should not be detained unless they are charged with a recognizable criminal offense, and only in accordance with international law and juvenile justice standards. Their rehabilitation and reintegration and alternatives to detention must be prioritized.

The overall text of the conclusions was comprehensive, echoing the Secretary-General’s recommendations from the report. However, in the negotiations, Ethiopia reportedly expressed criticism of the credibility of UN-verified data documented through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). Specifically, Ethiopia questioned the verified cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence attributed to AMISOM peacekeepers as reported by the Secretary-General. As a result of Ethiopia’s position, the Working Group was not able to ‘welcome’ the Secretary-General’s report in its conclusions.

Read more about Watchlist’s work on Somalia: https://watchlist.org/countries/somalia/