|Youth advocate and former child soldier Grace Akallo speaks at a 2008 press conference at UN headquarters announcing the creation of the Network of Young People Affected by War. She returned to address the Security Council on 29 April 2009.|
NEW YORK, USA, 29 April 2009 – A former child soldier told the tale of her abduction and abuse by an armed rebel group to the United Nations Security Council today, as the council discussed the latest report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on children in armed conflict.
Grace Akallo, now 29, explained that while attending high school in northern Uganda, she and many of her fellow students were abducted at gunpoint by the Lord’s Resistance Army, sexually assaulted and forced to become soldiers.
Adherence to international law
Akallo’s plea to the Security Council – that the perpetrators of sexual violence be stopped and punished – echoed remarks by the Secretary-General, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.
“Millions of children around the world continue to be impacted by armed conflict,” said Veneman. “Adherence to international humanitarian law and respect for children’s rights must be strengthened.”
Veneman also raised the issue of attacks on schools and other facilities that serve children.
Targeting repeat offenders
The Secretary-General’s report recommends that groups perpetrating sexual violence and other grave violations against children be named in future reports, alongside those currently named for engaging in child recruitment.
The report, which is issued annually, includes descriptions of incidents in 20 countries. It defines grave violations as recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, killing and maiming of children, rape and other grave sexual violence, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access to children.
Coomaraswamy called on the Security Council to ensure that its words were not empty threats. To that end, she recommended that the council discuss targeted measures against repeat offenders.
Office of the Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict
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