Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda, on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: End the scourge of violence against children
On this day in 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the ensuing quarter-century, nearly every state in the world joined that treaty.
In the exercise of its mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor is committed to protecting and respecting the rights of children. To ensure that we reinforce this commitment, my Office is in the process of preparing a comprehensive Policy Paper on Children; that process has already commenced, and thus far included consultations with child rights experts from, among other stakeholders, the United Nations system, civil society and academia. Crimes against children must be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The first trial of the International Criminal Court (ICC) focused on crimes against children, resulting in the landmark conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for the conscription, enlistment and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities. Both the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol “on the involvement of children in armed conflict” have played critical roles in the fight to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.
When I assumed Office as Prosecutor in 2012, I emphasised that in addition to focusing on “children who are forced to carry arms,” we must also address the issue of “children who are affected by arms.” The Lubanga trial had highlighted such issues, including the impact of crimes against children on whole communities, the specific issue of girl soldiers, and the devastating effect such crimes can have on the right of children to education. This broader focus has been extended in a pending case: earlier this year, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC confirmed charges against the accused, Bosco Ntaganda – not only of conscription, enlistment, and use of children, but also of sexual slavery and sexual violence against children who formed part of his own militia – and committed him to trial.
A crime against a child is an offence against all of humanity; it is, to be sure, an affront to our most basic tenets of human decency. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, my office pledges its firm commitment to advance the rights of children within the framework of the Rome Statute. We look forward to continuing to work in concert with the international community to end the scourge of violence against children in and affected by armed conflict.