Child rights advocates to report government violations to visiting UN representative

Published by rudy Date posted on December 8, 2008

Children rights advocates in the country will submit reports of child rights violations committed by the Arroyo administration to visiting United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy.

In a statement, Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) Executive Director Esmeralda Macaspac said her group would submit to Coomaraswamy its report on rights violations against children perpetrated by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines since 2001.

“We monitored 66 children victims of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings since 2001, 49 children victims of frustrated killings, 50 documented cases of torture, 55 children illegally arrested and detained, and 63 victims of physical assault and injury by the AFP since 2001,” Macaspac said.

Macaspac said that from January to October 2008 alone, the number of displaced children in conflict areas in Mindanao has reached 258,000.

“This is a result of the aggressive military operations in the countryside, where military practices such as hamletting, food blockades, house-to-house campaigns, etc. have forced families to flee their homes in fear,” said Macaspac.

“Together with our report, we will also submit recommendations to Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy and present our critique on the Paris Principles and its broadened definition of ‘child combatants.’ We hope that this will shed light and elicit discourse on the plight of Filipino children in armed conflict communities,” she said.

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns spokesperson Alphonse Rivera said that amid all these violations perpetuated by the military, the AFP has increasingly been using the propaganda line that children victims of human rights violations are “child-soldiers” recruited by rebel groups.

“This line is being used by the AFP to escape accountability over their human rights abuses, as well as a malicious justification for more open attacks on communities and children,” he said.

CRC, Salinlahi, and other child-support groups said they welcome the efforts of Coomaraswamy to reach out not only to the government but also to child rights advocates.

“We are eager to share with her the children’s experiences and views in armed conflict communities. Hopefully through the children’s voices, she will understand the real situation of children in armed conflict in the Philippine context,” Rivera said.

Coomaraswamy will be in the country today until Dec. 12 upon the invitation of the Philippine government.

During the visit, Coomaraswamy will determine first-hand the impact of the conflict on children. She will pay particular attention to the issue of association of children with armed groups, their return to civilian life and protection from violence.

The Special Representative will also advocate for broader protection of children in conflict zones and highlight the need to incorporate child protection provisions in the ongoing peace process.

Coomaraswamy aims to undertake a dialogue with the government and other relevant stakeholders on these important issues.

The Special Representative will follow up recommendations of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the situation of children in the Philippines.

She will also undertake discussions on ways to further strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations committed against children in armed conflict in the Philippines, established within the framework of Security Council resolution 1612. –-Helen Flores with Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star

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