© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0186/Iyad El Baba
Former UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (third from left) stands near rubble outside the American International School in the city of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.


The aim of this module is to provide an overview of accountability, including justice mechanisms for crimes committed against children during armed conflict.

On completion of this module, participants will understand:

  • The range of accountability mechanisms and processes to address crimes committed against children in situations of armed conflict or political violence.
  • Key principles of children in justice processes, both as victims/survivors and witnesses, and as active members of the community
  • Alternative accountability processes for children accused of crimes committed during conflict.
  • The relationship between accountability and the MRM
Participants MRM Coordinators
MRM Task Force members
MRM staff (in follow-up sessions as appropriate)
Session Participatory Presentation (45 minutes)
Groupwork (30 minutes)
Plenary discussion (45 minutes)
Time required 120 minutes
Venue requirements Training Room
Breakout rooms
Equipment - Laptop and PowerPoint slides
- Projector and screen
- Flipcharts
Resource person(s) This module is best presented by an instructor with expertise and experience in justice for children, international law and child rights.
Training materials - PPT presentation on Accountability for MRM
Justice Mechanisms Brief Note [PDF]
SCWG Toolkit [PDF]
- Accountability Groupwork Exercise [PDF]
Documents for participants - MRM Field Manual Section I "Accountability"
Justice Mechanisms Substantive Note [PDF]
Bibliography [PDF]
Access to materials All the training materials are included in Folder Module 12: Accountability

Pre-session Preparations

  • Pre-position key participants who can give an example at relevant points during the presentation - see suggestions below.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the slides and the content and get further information for areas in which you are not familiar.
  • The substantive note gives additional background to the information included below.

Session Sequence

  1. Participatory Presentation (45 minutes)

    Slide 1

    Brainstorming: Ask participants what they think of as accountability in relation to the MRM

    Slide 2
    This slide highlights the key areas into which accountability falls and is covered in the presentation. All of the elements highlighted in the brainstorming will fit into one of the listed elements.

    Slide 3
    Outlines the key areas within the SG's Reports and the SC Resolutions calling for accountability.

    Slide 4
    Provide a brief explanation of the need for maintaining dialogue with the Government and other parties, and elements that the MRM Task Force is required to address.

    Slide 5, 6 & 7
    Addresses Action Plans and gaining other commitments from government and other actors. Whilst the Action Plan templates are not yet finalised the key elements can be discussed.

    This is a good place to include one or two specific examples from participants on developing Action Plans

    Slide 8
    This highlights the UNSC Toolkit and it is suggested that participants can ask for clarification on use of the toolkit as required.

    An example from a country where there has been action by the UNSCWG will be valuable to include here.

    Slide 9
    Other UN Actions highlights other ways in which the UN can seek accountability - note that the reporting aspect is covered in Part 3 of the Reporting Module.

    • UN Special Rapporteurs (e.g. Torture, Violence against Women)
    • National implementation mechanisms of treaty obligations
    • Special procedures
    • CRC Committee and other treaty bodies
    • Non-military sanctions

    An example from a country where one of the above was instrumental will be valuable to include here.

    Slide 10
    Provides an overview of potential justice mechanisms.

    It would really useful to include here one or two specific examples

    Talking Points:

    • ICC and international courts
    • Truth commissions
    • National justice for children (juvenile justice)
    • Traditional processes

    Slide 11
    This slide provides a consideration for what is "our" role in relation to justice mechanisms.

    Further Discussion if time allows
    (if not go straight to the groupwork)

    Ask participants to turn to the handout - Justice Mechanisms Substantive Note; and to take a look at Section 1 Background Material

    In the outcome document of the United Nations Special Session on Children, 'A world fit for children', adopted in May 2002 by the General Assembly, governments undertake to:

    "Put an end to impunity, prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and exclude, where feasible, these crimes from amnesty provisions and amnesty legislation, and ensure that whenever post-conflict truth and justice-seeking mechanisms are established, serious abuses involving children are addressed and that appropriate child-sensitive procedures are provided."

    Accountability mechanisms can take many forms

    • International Criminal Court;
    • Ad hoc tribunals: International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda;
    • Special courts and tribunals: for example, the Special Court for Sierra Leone;
    • Truth commissions;
    • National courts;
    • Traditional processes;
    • Combinations of the above or further innovations.

    Again, refer to the handout Justice Mechanisms Substantive Note and if time explore these areas in more depth:

    • Principles for child protection and participation in justice mechanisms
      Example: Child Participation in a) the South Africa and b) Sierra Leonean TRCs
      An examination of the decisions taken by the TRCs in Sierra Leone and South Africa regarding child testimony and statement taking demonstrates how the assessment of the best interests principle can lead to different outcomes. See details in the Substantive Note.
    • Criminal accountability of children recruited by armed forces or armed groups

      Example: Children and criminal responsibility
      Grave violations of children's rights have figured prominently in cases before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and, more recently, the ICC. The SCSL was the first international or hybrid court to prosecute and convict persons for the crime of recruiting and using children in armed conflict. It also established precedent in a decision criminalizing child recruitment prior to the adoption of the Rome Statute, on the basis of customary international law. Crimes against children have gained centre stage in international investigations and prosecutions and the focus on children has helped build consensus and draw public attention. In these ongoing efforts and debates, no issue has attracted more attention than the recruitment and use of children to become instruments of war.

      Example: Dominic Ongwen case study
      A dilemma related to evolving capacities that has provoked even more debate is children's criminal responsibility when they are accused of committing crimes under international law. While it is understood that appropriate measures of accountability are in children's best interests, what is actually appropriate is a matter of controversy. According to international child rights and juvenile justice standards, alternatives to judicial proceedings should be applied wherever appropriate. To date, only one child has been tried for crimes under international law.

  2. Groupwork (30 minutes)

    Break into country groups of maximum 6 persons. In reflecting on their own country contexts (or district if training is one specific country situation), participants are asked to discuss and propose application of the MRM for improved accountability.

    Each group is asked to prepare one aspect to share with the plenary either related to a specific country or which they found was relevant for more than one country, for example:

    • An example of how accountability could be applied to a specific context
    • A challenge for implementation of one aspect of accountability and how that may be overcome
    • What the MRM Task Force could do to enhance measures towards accountability

  3. Plenary (30 minutes)

    In plenary, groups to briefly present on one aspect discussed in their group (3 minutes per presentation).
    Plenary discussion on the various aspects raised and general discussion on accountability.

    Attention: Accountability is an area that is still being reflected on, in the context of MRM and the role of Task Forces; hence there may be questions raised that have no clear answers. Do not be afraid to admit that this needs further discussion or you will look into it and get back to participants.

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