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United Nations releases new handbook on the rights of children affected by the foreign-fighter phenomenon


Handbook aimed at legal professionals and policymakers to help ensure that all children's rights are protected

Date of Publication:
07 October 2019

United Nations releases new handbook on the rights of children affected by the foreign-fighter phenomenon

07 October 2019

The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) last week released a new handbook on ensuring a child rights-based approach when considering children affected by the foreign-fighter phenomenon.

"The critical phenomenon of individuals who travel abroad for the purpose of perpetrating, planning, preparing for or participating in terrorist acts – so-called foreign fighters – has been high on the agenda of the international community. Following the territorial collapse of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in particular, increased attention has been focused on such individuals and their families, many of whom are detained in camps, returning to their countries of origin or travelling to a third country. Thousands of children are among them," the handbook notes.

According to UNOCT, the target audience of the handbook is primarily legal professionals, policymakers, security experts and practitioners who may benefit from further specific guidance on ensuring full protection and promotion of the rights of the child in the context of their work.

You can download the 103-page handbook here.

The overall goal of the handbook is to ensure that all children's rights are protected and that all children are assisted, while attempting to address security concerns that states face in relation to the foreign fighter phenomenon.

It states: "In particular, the handbook aims to assist practitioners in finding more effective and sustainable solutions to the challenges such children face by ensuring respect for international normative standards. The handbook aims to do so by summarizing applicable international human rights law, especially child rights standards, and humanitarian law and explaining how applying such law practically also supports member states to improve security and long-term recovery of children. The handbook further includes recommendations for approaches that represent good practice, while introducing some national practices and other relevant publications and materials."

The eight chapters of the handbook cover:

  • Key principles to protect the rights of the child while addressing a State's security concerns
  • Ensuring the right to nationality
  • Preserving family unity
  • Repatriation
  • Rehabilitation and reintegration
  • Juvenile justice
  • Deprivation of liberty
  • Data collection and exchange

Vladimir Voronkov, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, said: "I hope that this handbook will lead to increased awareness and better protection of the rights of children, provided for under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, among other international instruments, in larger counter-terrorism efforts. Through this handbook, United Nations entities and their partners will also be better suited to offer practical support to Member States in tackling the difficult task of protecting the rights of the child in the context of countering and preventing terrorism."