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Security Council - Statements in 1998

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  • Statement by Mr. Ivo Sramek, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations at the Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
    New York, June 29, 1998


Statement by Mr. Ivo Sramek, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations at the Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

the Czech Republic welcomes this open Security Council debate on Children and Armed Conflicts, which in our opinion clearly shows that protection of children affected by war is now very high on the agenda of international community. This is certainly most appropriate, in view of the gravity of problems involved. We are grateful to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflicts, Ambassador Olara Otunnu, for his thought provoking statement. His ideas indeed deserve most careful consideration. The Czech Republic has welcome amb. Otunnu´s appointment as special representative and we gladly renew our pledge of support for his admirable and efficient efforts in furthering the cause of protecting children affected by armed conflicts. We note with satisfaction and appreciation that Amb. Otunnu´s voice has already proven to be a very audible and influential one and has contributed greatly to ensuring that the plight of children exposed to war be more vigorously addressed by the international community.

Mr. President,

the Czech Republic has aligned itself with the EU statement delivered this morning and it therefore goes without saying that it fully subscribes to its contents. I would however like to elaborate a bit and present additional views of my delegation on one specific aspect of the issue of children in armed conflicts.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child protects children, it means persons bellow the age of eighteen years, in a wide variety of situations. But paradoxically, it also contains the apparently nonsensical clause according to which the age limit for entitlement to such protection is lowered to fifteen years in case a child takes part in armed conflict, that is in a situation which typically leads to endangering and to violation of the rights of the child. Regrettably, the fact that the international community has been so far unable to set a higher standard is merely a reflection of the current state of affairs - estimates indicate that 250 000 children below the age of eighteen years take part in the more that thirty armed conflicts around the world. Under the information of UNICEF, children represent 40 per cent of all victims of armed conflicts around the world.

The Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on involvement of children in armed conflicts has so far, after four sessions, failed to reach consensus on the text and, more importantly, on crusial issues such as the age limit for participation in armed conflicts.

We are convinced that potencial decision to set this age limit anywhere below eighteen years would discredit the fair intentions and efforts of the United Nations to protect effectively the rights of the child. We believe that those few governments which have difficulties with the text of the draft protocol will review their position so that theprotocol could be finalized as soon as possible.

The Czech Republic is now experiencing a far-reaching legislative changes and therefore we fully understand how difficult is to overhaul domestic legislation and, namely, to introduce the new rules into practice. However, we cannot accept the tendencies to adjust international standards to the domestic law of any state. On the contrary, international standards must be taken as a model for adjustment of both the domestic law and the practice.

The Czech Republic will actively promote the creation of an international standard which will become the springboard to changing the international practice. To this end we will support the effort of the newly created coalition of the major international NGOs against the use of child soldiers. The implementation of the new standard will require a comprehensive, long-term effort. However, we wish to reiterate the decision of the Economic and Social Council 1997/281 and hope that the text of the Protocol will be approved during next year.