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Syria: monitoring the prohibition of child soldiers by Kurdish armed forces

Following the signature of the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) last July, 149 child soldiers were demobilized from the armed forces and given the opportunity to join educational centres; two for girls, two for boys. Geneva Call recently conducted a monitoring trip to Syria and visited these centres. Most of the children are between 15 and 17 years old and they are now being given basic education and kept far away from hostilities.

A few children returned to their families, but for many, going back to their homes is not seen as an option; armed operations, closed schools, poverty in their families, domestic violence, and their own desire to join the armed forces make a safe and sustainable return unlikely.

According to the Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava, “After a visit to their family, some boys don’t want to come back to the centres, and without informing those in charge, try to re-join local military units.”

In addition, with the intensification of the fighting against “Islamic State” (IS), dozens more children have tried to join YPG-YPJ armed forces to defend their cities and villages. As for the region of Kobane, it has been extremely difficult to monitor the situation, as the city is under siege and targeted daily by IS.  More than 150,000 people have fled to Turkey. Of these, thousands were evacuated from their villages by YPG-YPJ for their safety.

A continuous effort to keep children away from hostilities needs to be made by YPG-YPJ. A number of allegations mentioning young boys and girls seen with YPG-YPJ forces have been reported recently and are now under investigation by Geneva Call.

Despite these difficulties, YPG-YPJ commanders reiterated their willingness to comply with the Deed of Commitment and prevent any under-18s from taking part in hostilities.  During its visit, Geneva Call noted that the self-administration’s civil servants undertake routine field checks.  An interlocutor has been assigned by the self-administration to regularly share information on the situation with Geneva Call.

Geneva Call launches an annual expert meeting series on armed non-State actors and challenges to compliance with International Humanitarian Law

On 5th September, Geneva Call announced the launch of the Annual Garance Discussions, a series of meetings that will be held every year at its new offices in Geneva. The meetings will bring together experts in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to brainstorm responses to current situations and challenges to compliance with IHL faced by armed non-State actors, as witnessed by Geneva Call in its work.

The launch of this new initiative was made during a preview session organized by Geneva Call with the support of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law on the occasion of the XXXVII San Remo roundtable on current issues of IHL.
The first discussions at la Garance will take place in 2015.

Expert meeting on improvised explosive devices

According to a report by Action on Armed Violence, 22,735 civilians worldwide were injured or killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2013, a 70% rise since 2011. In September, Geneva Call joined over 40 experts gathered at Chatham House in London to explore how to effectively address this issue

It was generally understood that the problem is how IEDs are used, often directly targeting civilians, rather than the device itself. In addition to advocating for parties to armed conflicts to apply international humanitarian norms on the use of IEDs, which is the work Geneva Call is doing daily with armed non-State actors, participants proposed other courses of action.

These included stigmatization, improving assistance to victims, strengthening transfer and trade regulations of IED components, increasing coordination of IED detection and disposal, as well as enhancing policing efforts to apprehend those responsible.

Inauguration of Geneva Call’s offices                                

On 9 September, Geneva Call was joined by over 70 people – partner NGOs, local authorities, supporters and donors - to celebrate its recent move to new offices located in “la Garance”, a large house in the commune of Geneva known as Chêne-Bougeries.

Guests visited the house, met with staff and discussed Geneva Call’s latest achievements on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. A photo exhibition, a video presentation and official speeches completed the visit. 

Geneva Call would like to thank all donors who made this move possible.
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