Human Rights – Children
Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups: The Role of the Justice System
UNODC 2017 :: 160 pages
Old and new challenges
The use of children in hostilities is not a new phenomenon. Nearly 20 years ago, the report of the expert of the Secretary-General on the impact of armed conflict on children, known as the Machel Report,8 brought to international attention the extent and consequences of recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups. Even today, the recruitment of children largely takes place in situations of conflict, though terrorist and violent extremist groups are by no means the only ones perpetrating such grave violations against children.
The involvement of terrorist and violent extremist groups entails numerous new challenges for
States. First, prevention has become particularly complex, as evidenced by the innovative methods of propaganda and recruitment employed specifically by such groups. This is a primary concern to efforts to effectively tackle a security threat while, at the same time, limiting the victimization of such children.
Secondly, because of their association with terrorism-related activities, which are classified in
international and national law as serious offences, an increasing number of children come into contact with national authorities, in particular with justice authorities. In this context, the questions range from the applicable international legal framework to the legal status of the children and the competent authorities and procedures to deal with them. Such children are commonly regarded as a security risk and subsequently exposed to further violations of their rights.
Finally, there is a lack of understanding regarding the rehabilitation and reintegration measures that can be effective in addressing the particular stigma associated with terrorism, while taking into account the extreme violence that has always characterized recruitment and exploitation of children. Also in this context, a key challenge is how to build upon the lessons learned from the reintegration of children who have been used in conflict situations and also address the specific issues related to terrorism.
The underlying concern, which is at the core of the present publication, is how States can preserve public safety and, at the same time, effectively protect the rights of the child.
The role of the justice system
In order to tackle the very complex and multifaceted phenomenon of children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups, it is essential to count on the coordinated efforts of a variety of actors and institutions, from different systems. Even if the justice system is not the only system that has responsibilities in protecting children, its role is crucial.
The justice system is not only essential for ending impunity and ensuring accountability mechanisms, but also instrumental in promoting preventive measures to counter violence against children. While it is important to note that not all children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups are in contact with the justice system, often actors working within that system are the first ones to have contact with those children. For this reason, they have an undeniable responsibility to protect, respect and fulfil children’s rights, to prevent revictimization and to take action to ensure that other systems (i.e. child protection, health and education) provide suitable responses.
This Handbook was developed with a view to providing coherent and consistent guidance to national authorities on the treatment of children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups, with emphasis on the role of the justice system.
Structure of the Handbook
The Handbook contains four chapters. Chapters I-IV combine legal guidance on the relevant international legal framework with operational guidance aimed at identifying effective approaches in the different areas of intervention, overcoming practical challenges and fostering the identification and promotion of lessons learned. The case studies featured in each chapter are particularly relevant, as they provide further insight on the adaptation of general recommendations to specific national and local contexts.
Chapter I is on the prevention of child recruitment by terrorist and violent extremist groups. Following an analysis of the key motivations and methods of the groups to recruit children, the chapter focuses on the need to design and implement comprehensive prevention measures aimed at addressing violence against children in general, recruitment in particular and the role of the justice systems in such policies.
Chapter II focuses on children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups, in particular their treatment as victims. The chapter deals with the recognition of their status as victims; safeguards aimed at fostering participation of children in criminal proceedings while preserving their safety; and their right to reparations.
The subject of chapter III is the treatment of children who have been recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups and who come in contact with the justice system for allegedly having committed terrorism-related offences. The chapter focuses on issues regarding the legal status of those children, the competent authorities and procedures to deal with them, and minimum guarantees that should inform all stages of justice proceedings.
The final chapter addresses the need to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in different contexts. Taking into account the diversity of the phenomenon, the chapter provides overall guidance on child-sensitive reintegration measures, focusing on issues such as the demobilization and release of children; cross-border situations; and the reintegration of children who come in contact with the justice system.
UNODC launches Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist Groups
– UNODC launched today the Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups: The Role of the Justice System, the first United Nations publication on the topic. The event was attended by representatives of 48 countries.
“The world has been forced to face the reality that terrorists and violent extremist groups target children for their purposes,” said John Brandolino, UNODC’s Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs, speaking at the launch event.
In this regard, the Handbook aims at providing guidance to law- and policy-makers, as well as practitioners on the treatment of children. The publication focuses on the prevention of child recruitment; justice for children; and rehabilitation and reintegration…