On May 17, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its second conclusion on Iraq (document forthcoming) in response to the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq. The report was presented to the Working Group on March 2. In its conclusions, the Working Group notes the worsening trend of violations committed against children by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), but also the continued recruitment and use of children by the Government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). With particular concern, the Working Group noted the issue of detention of children on the basis of security charges under anti-terrorism laws.

Overall, the Working Group’s conclusion on Iraq offers a comprehensive framework whose implementation would significantly improve the condition of children affected by armed conflict. Watchlist will work with civil society partners on the ground to this end.

Ahead of the Working Group’s negotiations, Watchlist made targeted recommendations, many of which were echoed in the conclusions.

First, Watchlist recommended that the Working Group call upon the Government of Iraq to ensure that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) immediately end the recruitment and use of children, and release all children currently associated with them. The Working Group further called upon the Government to enhance the protection of children in legislation, including by criminalizing the recruitment and use of children, and ensuring that no exceptions relevant to the age of recruitment are included in the National Guard Law.

Second, Watchlist and its partners have been concerned about the reported mistreatment of children held in detention on security charges. Watchlist stressed to the Working Group that children who have been associated with non-state armed groups should be treated primarily as victims and in accordance with international principles and juvenile justice standards. In their conclusions, the Working Group expressed concern over the allegations of torture and ill treatment of children in detention on national security charges. Watchlist welcomed the Working Group’s call on the Government to consider non-judicial measures that focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of children as alternatives to prosecution and detention. Last but not least, the conclusions note that the deprivation of liberty of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time.

Third, the Working Group’s conclusions call upon the Government to ensure the reintegration and rehabilitation of children associated with parties to conflict, including the PMF, in close coordination with the UN and relevant child protection actors. It welcomes in particular the development of the National Child Protection policy as a national framework towards preventing, protecting, and rehabilitating children at risk of recruitment, and urges its prompt implementation. The Working Group also commended the joint efforts by the Government, the UN, and child protection actors to develop a national strategy for community-based reintegration and prevention programming to address the recruitment and use of children, and stressed the need for funding of such a strategy.

Fourth, the Working Group urged the Government of Iraq to end impunity by ensuring that all perpetrators, including members of its own security forces and the PMF, are swiftly brought to justice through rigorous, timely, independent, and impartial investigation and prosecution.

While Watchlist welcomes the strong condemnation of attacks on schools and hospitals and military use of schools in the country, the Working Group did not call on the Government to adopt concrete measures to deter military use of schools, which Watchlist recommended.

For the most recent recommendations on Iraq, see Watchlist’s May 2016 Children and Armed Conflict Monthly Update.