Sudan joins more than 70 other countries worldwide that have ratified both Optional Protocols. Sudan is amongst the first Arab countries to do so. Only six have ratified it, though Kuwait’s ratification is imminent.
The Optional Protocols were adopted by the UN General Assembly in May 2000. One aims at combating the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The second aims at putting an end to the involvement of all children under the age of 18 in armed conflict. The Government of Sudan signed only the Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2002. A period of legislative review of both protocols followed. Now, with the President’s signature, the two protocols are ratified, which makes them obligatory under international law.
The two protocols were signed by the President on 11 September, with official notification to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors the implementation of the protocols globally, on 28 October.
“We congratulate the Government of Sudan for its commitment to enhance the protection of children’s rights in all regions of Sudan,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. “This is a tumultuous period in Sudan’s history and all eyes are on the country. UNICEF views the ratification of the protocols as acknowledgement by the Government of its responsibility to remove children from the fighting forces and to protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking.”
Various parties involved in Sudan’s two decades of conflict are known to have recruited children into their fighting forces, sometimes forced and sometimes voluntary. As recently as April 2004, evidence indicates that children from the Nuer tribe were taken into militias in Bentiu and Malakal, southern Sudan. Likewise, although no evidence of systematic forced recruitment has been documented, children are seen among the fighting forces in the troubled western region of Darfur
Both boys and girls are known to be associated with the fighting forces in Sudan. “Often, combatants take girls as ‘informal wives’, abandoning them if they become pregnant. Boys are used as soldiers and as servants, sometimes as young as eight years old”, said JoAnna Van Gerpen, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.
Secretary General of the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW), Dr. Yassir Ibrahim, was satisfied with the President’s ratification of the Protocols. “By ratifying the two Optional Protocols, Sudan is confirming its political and moral commitment to child care and protection. This commitment emanates from Sudan’s traditional religious and social values that are expressed in national legislation in compliance with international and regional instruments related to child care and protection.”
Van Gerpen called on all fighting forces in Sudan to tackle the sensitive issue of children associated with the fighting forces. “This should happen now. It doesn’t have to wait for conclusion of the peace agreement,” Van Gerpen said. “We hope that the task force on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration created last year in the context of the peace talks will be empowered to immediately remove children under 18 years from the fighting forces and reintegrate them into their families and communities.”
For further information, please contact:
Paula Claycomb, UNICEF Sudan: +249-12-309410 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York: +212-326-7426 email@example.com
Anis Salem, UNICEF Middle East and North Africa: +962-6-553-9977, firstname.lastname@example.org
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva: +41-79-216-94-01, email@example.com