SRSG Zerrougui calls for better protection of children affected by armed conflict
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui has concluded a six-day visit to Somalia, where she made a plea for better protection of children caught up in armed conflict.
Addressing a press conference in Mogadishu today at the end of her visit, SRSG Zerrougui expressed optimism over the efforts of the Federal Government of Somalia and authorities in Puntland to improve the conditions of children in armed conflict.
“We need not only to get them out of death row, we need to give them to child protection actors and to work with them, if some need psycho-social treatment, if they need to be helped to return to the community,” said SRSG Zerrougui. “Whatever we can do, we can work together on that and assure the Government and the authorities that we will do our best to support their initiative.”
The SRSG visited children in detention centres in Garowe and Bossaso, and she urged authorities throughout Somalia to treat captured children as victims and not as criminals.
“I would like to emphasise the importance of the reintegration. When something wrong happens we need to make sure that we fix the problem and deal with the children in a way that when they return to the community, they are not stigmatised, they are not abused and they are not left on the streets,” she stressed.
She called on authorities to integrate into the community former child soldiers and address stigmatization and abuse of underage victims of violence.
In March, Puntland security forces captured and detained dozens of child soldiers after defeating an attempted incursion by Al-Shabaab militants.
During her visit to Puntland, SRSG Zerrougui met with President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, the Vice President, the Minister of Justice, judges, and prosecutors.
She said she obtained assurances from Puntland authorities that 12 child soldiers who were captured and later sentenced to death will not be executed.
Ms. Zerrougui held talks in Mogadishu with senior federal government officials, including Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the federal ministers of defence and internal security, and representatives of Civil Society Organisations engaged in child protection.
The SRSG’s visit to Somalia comes ahead of the presentation of the annual report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, which is due on 2 August 2016.