Integration of human rights and innovative action by the Security Council
In recent years the Security Council has directly examined issues specifically relating to human rights, thus reasserting the link between international security and compliance with human rights.
Working group on children and armed conflict
Security Council Resolution 1612 of 22 April 2005 provided for the establishment of a Security Council working group on children and armed conflict. The group began work in July 2005 and is an innovative mechanism. Comprising the 15 members of the Security Council, it meets behind closed doors to examine reports produced by the monitoring and reporting mechanisms in countries of concern, reviews progress achieved in designing and implementing action plans, and makes recommendations to the governments or rebel groups in these countries to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers, obtain their liberation or demobilisation and facilitate their re-integration into society. In the event that its recommendations are not followed, the working group may request the UNSC to apply sanctions.
The monitoring and reporting mechanism, whose mandate has been extended by the Resolution 1882 of the Security Council, seeks to monitor the following six grave abuses: killing or maiming of children; recruiting or using child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; abduction of children; denial of humanitarian access for children.
The number of child soldiers is estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000, mainly to be found in 13 countries (Myanmar, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, DR Congo, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Uganda and, since February 2008, Afghanistan and the CAR; Côte d’Ivoire has been removed from the list of situations of concern because of progress made on the ground). The working group has recorded a number of not insignificant successes, such as the demobilisation of thousands of child soldiers around the world, the liberation and re-integration of child soldiers in Côte d’Ivoire and Chad (400 child soldiers), the agreement by the MLS/Minnawi in Sudan and the Karen in Myanmar to stop using child soldiers. The working group was chaired by France from 2005 to the start of 2009.
Protection of civilians
The Security Council’s action on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (PoC) was enshrined in Resolution 1674, moved by the United Kingdom and France and unanimously adopted on 28 April 2006. The resolution reaffirmed the principle of each Member State’s responsibility to protect its civilian populations and provided a legal and political framework establishing the Security Council’s full legitimacy to intervene to end massive human rights violations. States are also obliged to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for serious crimes. The Security Council insisted on the need to enable the re-establishment of independent national legal institutions and systems in post-conflict countries. Justice and reconciliation mechanisms make it possible not only to establish individual responsibilities but also encourage the promotion of peace and truth, national reconciliation and the recognition of victims’ rights.
In November 2009, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1894 about the “ protection of civilians in armed conflicts” which establishes for the first time an important link between its action in the area of protection of civilians and its responsibility to protect. This Resolution contains also orientations to reinforce the language on protection of civilians in the UN peacekeeping operations’ mandates.
Legal instruments for the protection of human rights
The universality of human rights is based on the global application of fundamental rights held to be inalienable, indivisible, interdependent and applicable without discrimination to all human beings. This set of rights is included in the International Bill of Human Rights, comprising
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which isn’t legally binding;
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted in 1966 with its two Optional Protocols, of which the first authorises the Commission on Human Rights to receive and examine submissions from individual victims of rights violations and the second, adopted in 1989, aims to abolish the death penalty;
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted in 1966.
Other international instruments for the protection of human rights include:
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965;
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1979 and its Optional Protocol;
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984 and its Optional Protocol;
Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and its two Optional Protocols;
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance of 2006;
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2006
Women, peace and security
Noting that women and girls are the main victims of armed conflict and can play a positive role in the re-establishment of peace in post-conflict situations, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 (2000) “Women, peace and security” which:
urges States in conflict situations to increase the participation of women at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes;
encourages the integration of women in United Nations peacekeeping operations, as military observers, civilian police and human rights experts;
promotes measures taken by States to guarantee women’s fundamental rights once peace is restored;
emphasises the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity, especially relating to sexual violence and to exclude these crimes, where feasible, from amnesty provisions.
UNSC Resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 and 1889 (2009) followed on from Resolution 1325, stressing in particular the need to combat sexual violence in armed conflict.
Update : July 2010
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