Experts gather in The Hague for a Consultation on ICC Prosecutor’s draft Policy on Children

 

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda is one of the most powerful legal professionals in the world because she decides which individuals are to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. I had the honor of accompanying Dean Amann to the International Criminal Court to participate in a roundtable discussion with delegates from throughout the world to discuss policies regarding children in armed conflicts.

Click here for a more detailed description of the draft policy on children in armed conflicts.

It was a cool and uncharacteristically bright day in The Hague, The Netherlands as I commuted to the International Criminal Court (ICC). I interpreted this as a good sign for the day’s affairs, which consisted of a Consultation of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor’s Draft Policy on Children. This Policy, once finalized, would serve as a guide for the International Criminal Court and other national authorities to address crimes concerning children in armed conflicts. Once I arrived, I cautiously walked up the long staircase, made my way through security and then pinpointed the location of the Consultation before I took a seat in the lobby to wait for the event to begin.

After meeting some of the professionals that worked within the area of children’s rights, I had the opportunity to meet with Madame Prosecutor Fatou Ben Souda. Her appearance was regal and her demeanor was kind. Once everyone had settled, the Consultation began with welcoming remarks from Madame Prosecutor Ben Souda. She discussed one of her goals for the office, which included ensuring that special attention was paid not only to “children with weapons,” but also to “children affected by weapons.” She also went on to state:

“Children usually bear the brunt of war and conflict; they become either direct or indirect victims of unspeakable cruelty, and are far too often robbed of their young lives or of their future through the ravages of war. Children are our future; failing to protect them from the scourge of war is to have failed not only our duty of care but our humanity.  We all have a responsibility, in our respective capacities, to do all we can to protect children in and affected by armed conflict.”[1]

Some of the sources utilized in this Draft Policy included the Rome Statute, international jurisprudence and the experience of those within the Office. It is intended to be an expansion of the guidelines that are already enumerated in controlling authorities, such as the Rome Statute. In this particular Consultation, experts in the area of children in armed conflict were asked to give their input in order to improve the Policy overall.

One of the provisions that I found particularly interesting involved the idea of a child-sensitive approach. It means that ultimately, the best interest of a child is a primary consideration. Additionally, the child is treated as an individual who is vulnerable, capable and resilient.[2] This is especially important because children, especially younger children, are impressionable, but they are constantly evolving in their capacity to learn. Some of the anecdotes discussed in the Consultation served to denote the special attention that is needed when one works with a child, which thankfully, is inherent to the child-sensitive approach.

In the end, though, it helped to hear from experts from across the world who were working to implement a Policy regarding children in armed conflicts, and other initiatives within their countries. Dean Amann’s closing remarks were also uplifting because she encouraged continued efforts in refining the Policy and improving the conditions of children in armed conflicts overall.

[1] Fatou Ben Souda, Welcoming Remarks Office of the Prosecutor’s Draft Policy on Children Consultations on the Draft Policy on Children (2016).
[2] Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, Draft Policy on Children  (Jun. 2016), https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/22.06.2016-Draft-Policy-on-Children_ENG.pdf.

 

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