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Press Release: From the Desk of the National Coalition for the Protection And Promotion of the Rights of the Child ( NCPPRC), Sierra Leone

The NCPPRC (a Coalition of the three (3) child welfare organisations consisting of Defence for Children International, Sierra Leone Section (DCISL), Save the Woman Programme, Sierra Leone, and Pikin -to-Pikin, Sierra Leone) joins several other Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations including UNICEF, the World Organisation against Torture and local NGO's like Forum of Conscience, the National Forum for Human Rights and several more, in condemning the attempt by the U.N Security Council to include children between the ages of 15 to 18 years into the category of persons to be tried by the proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Considering the immaturity and vulnerability of these children, the NCPPRC is of the view that they do not aptly fall within the definition of "persons who bear the highest responsibility " for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other high felonies that go against international and local laws. Persons within these age brackets, the Coalition notes, demand urgent disarmament, rehabilitation/reformation and re-development in those spheres of life in which they are best suited. Court trials may only worsen their plight and mar their future participation in society.

The NCPRC suggests the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an alternative to the Special Court. This will relieve the loaded and traumatised minds of such vulnerable group and correspondingly heal and prepare its members for re-integration and reconciliation. Also, this is the most peaceful way we are sure of giving our children (however dangerous) a better tomorrow!

In another development, the NCPPRC joins DCISL in condemning the continued detention of Mr. Mohamed Suma (member and active volunteer of DCISL) by rebels of the RUF, Sierra Leone since July this year in Kono, Eastern Sierra Leone. It is believed that Mr. Suma's abduction is the result of his campaign against the use of child combatants by all fighting forces to the Sierra Leone conflict – an exercise which the RUF frowns upon considerably since its most co-operative fighters happen to be children below 15 years of age.

The NCPPRC calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Suma by the RUF. The NCPPRC demands that all child combatants be released and made to join the disamarment, truth and reconciliation programme without any delay.


1. Sierra Leone Special Court

The Coalition has continued to lobby Security Council members in relation to the proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone. While we welcomed the proposed inclusion of recruitment of child soldiers under 15 as a war crime under the court’s jurisdiction, we have been disturbed that the proposal defines this narrowly in terms of "abduction" and "forced recruitment" rather than the broader definition used by the ICC Statute (consistent with international humanitarian law and the CRC) of ALL recruitment and use of children under 15. We have also joined with other NGOs and UN agencies in expressing concern about the possible trial of juveniles between 15 and 18, arguing that the Court’s mandate is to prosecute persons MOST responsible for serious violations, ie the adults who have recruited child soldiers rather than child soldiers themselves. The proposal for the Court presented by the UN Secretary General had left this issue to the decision of the Security Council. A press release issued by the Coalition can be found on our website at www.child-soldiers.org In Sierra Leone, the National NGO Coalition for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child issued a similar statement which is available at http://www.crin.org/crinmail/crinmail218


The Security Council is expected to reach a decision on the jurisdiction of the Special Court in the coming week. A Security Council mission to Sierra Leone from 7-14 October highlighted the sensitivity of the issue. While the delegation did not make any firm recommendation on the jurisdiction issue, it publicly affirmed that "the purpose was to indict only those persons who bore the greatest responsibility and noted that "the right balance must be struck between the requirements of justice and the need to minimize any potential disincentive to entering the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process that the threat of prosecution may represent…"

The SC report can be found at http://www.ods.un.org/tmp/01/17/06/77/1-1.pdf


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