African Committee of Experts adopts new general comment on children in situations of conflict2 min read
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child has adopted a new general comment on the rights of children in situations of conflict. This general comment relates specifically to article 22 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
As noted in the general comment: “The protection of children in armed conflict is informed by an international legal framework, which is useful in dealing with the violations of children’s rights in armed conflict, tension and strife. Some of the notable violations include the recruitment and use of children by armed forces or groups, killing and maiming of children, rape and sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict, tension and strife.”
The general comment reaffirms that the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration in all actions or measures taken for children affected by armed conflict, which includes both preventative and protective measures. It notes further that armed conflicts, tension and strife stifle the best interests of the child, as they affect the development of children physically, socially, psychologically, economically and culturally, and affect the enjoyment of their rights.
A key discussion in the general comment relates to the right to participation of children. In this regard, the general comment provides that:
- State parties have an obligation to ensure that children who are capable of forming their views are given the opportunity to exercise the right and to express their views freely on matters that affect them.
- State parties must develop laws and policies that allow child participation in matters that concern them, which must be assured in a manner that allows them to express their opinions as individuals or collectively, freely. Special emphasis must be placed on children from vulnerable contexts, including those with disabilities
- States must create an enabling and safe atmosphere where children will be able to express their views on matters that affect them.
- In line with the right to association, children must be allowed to share their experiences with their peers, and express their views as a way of harnessing their strengths, skills and building of self-confidence. In doing this, their safety should be guaranteed.
- State parties must develop the requisite legislative and policy environment to ensure that other stakeholders who work with children include children’s views and ensure their representation in peace talks, mitigation of the effects of conflict and rebuilding of communities.
- Participation of children must be done in an inclusive manner, for both boys and girls from contexts of vulnerability, and should also protect children from re-victimisation.
The general comment is accessible here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected]wersingh.africa.