Sudan: UNICEF welcomes access to children held after justice and equality movement attack on Omdurman

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 31 May 2008 View Original
KHARTOUM, 31 May 2008 - UNICEF has welcomed being given access to 89 children detained in connection with the attack by forces of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on Omdurman on 10 May, and has repeated its condemnation of the use of children by JEM in its attack on the city and by all other armed forces and groups.

During a meeting with the children on Saturday, UNICEF was able to confirm that they appear to be in good health, and that they are being detained separately from adults in line with international standards on the treatment of children associated with armed forces and groups.

'I am pleased to see that the authorities are holding these children separately from adults,' said UNICEF Representative Ted Chaiban, who was part of a UNICEF team invited by the government to meet the children.

'Our position is that these children should be considered primarily as victims, and every effort must be made to enable their reintegration back into their communities in line with international conventions - including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Sudan is a signatory.'

While Sudan retains the right to prosecute children who have reached the age of criminal responsibility, UNICEF urges that any legal process focuses on restorative justice - which encourages children to understand and take responsibility for their actions while assisting them to be reunited with their families - rather than punishment. The National Council for Child Welfare - which is supervising the care of the children - has confirmed that should any prosecution be undertaken in this case, it would follow child-friendly procedures established under Sudan's 2004 Child Act; including the handling of cases in juvenile courts and provision of independent legal representation for any children charged.

'We must not lose sight of the fact that the real guilt in such cases lies with those who recruited these children,' said Ted Chaiban. 'The ultimate responsibility for child recruitment and its consequences lies firmly with the adults who took these children from their families and placed them in an armed group.'

UNICEF is also calling for all necessary measures to be implemented to protect the children associated with the JEM attack. In particular, it is vital that full confidentiality is respected, so that children have the opportunity to be rehabilitated into their communities without fear of stigma or retribution. UNICEF has raised this concern with the relevant authorities, and urged that no further images of the children be shown on television or printed in the media.

UNICEF is in contact with a High Level Committee, established by the government to handle the case of the 89 children, and which includes representatives of the Advisory Council for Human Rights, the National Council for Child Welfare, the Humanitarian Aid Commission and the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Justice.

UNICEF has repeatedly called for an end to recruitment and use of children in conflict, and the reintegration of all children associated with armed forces and groups back into civilian life.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact: Edward Carwardine, Chief, Media and External Relations, UNICEF Sudan, Mobile: +249 (0)912 177 291, Email: ecarwardine@unicef.org