Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism (A/HCR/40/28)

The full range of the impacts of terrorism and counter-terrorism on children cannot be addressed in a single report. In addition to the harms examined in the present report, terrorist groups may engage in trafficking, hostage-taking for ransom, harmful traditional practices and other forms of exploitation and abuse of children. Children whose caregivers are accused of terrorist crimes or traumatized by terrorist violence face particular risks. In all cases, international human rights law provides an essential framework for identifying, implementing and evaluating the most effective interventions to protect children and gender considerations should be integrated at all
levels.

Children have been largely ignored in the counter-terrorism discourse. There is a need for further research on the short- and long-term impacts of terrorism on children and the drivers of terrorist exploitation of children. Counter-terrorism policies and programmes should, however, be grounded in the available empirical evidence, rather than untested theories, such as the narrative of radicalization.

States have different legal obligations towards children who are direct victims or witnesses of a terrorist attack, children at risk of association and children associated with terrorist groups. However, children in all of those categories are victims of terrorism. States should ensure that their laws, policies and practices recognise the primary status of children as victims, incorporate the best interests of the child as a primary consideration, ensure the protection of children and fully respect their right to express their views in all matters affecting them.

States should ensure that reparation programmes for victims and witnesses of terrorist acts are age- and gender-sensitive. Child victims and witnesses should have access as early as possible to any necessary rehabilitative health care based on their individual needs, including psychosocial and sexual and reproductive health-care services. Reparation programmes should account for the fact that the impact of terrorism on child victims and witnesses may include lost opportunities and ensure that the children affected have access to special educational programmes and skills training. Caregivers of child victims and witnesses should also have access to appropriate support.

In their prevention efforts, States should recognize that the factors that place children at risk of exploitation by a terrorist group overlap with risk factors for other forms of exploitation. Child protection measures should take a holistic approach to those risks, in partnership with children, their families and their communities. In particular, States should take measures to address child poverty, to ensure that all children have access to quality education without discrimination and to resolve community grievances.

In line with their international obligations, States should explicitly prohibit and criminalize the recruitment and use of children in hostilities by non-State armed groups, including terrorist groups. Cases of exploitation of children by such groups should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Exploited children should have access to comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration, which should be gender-sensitive.

Published 2019-02-21