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On Birth Registrations, UNICEF on Myanmar & Mali Arrests, UN Split on Age?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 11 -- On UNICEF's 67th birthday, it launched a report about "Inequities and Trends in Birth Registration" around the world.

  Inner City Press asked about Myanmar, Haiti / Dominican Republic, Lebanon / Palestine and finally about Mali, and five children imprisoned by the government with which UN Peacekeeping is working.

  On this last, the answer was the UNICEF does not get involved in such individual cases -- but that disputes about whether someone is a child should be subject to the assumption that the person is a child.

  This stands in contrast to Mali expressing, and then the UN echoing to Inner City Press on December 5, here, that Amnesty International is wrong and the detainees are not children. We hope to have more on this.

  The UNICEF report, on Myanmar, said that country "currently has no electronic record of children registered at birth or registered through late registration procedures; records exist only as paper copies kept at the local Township Medical office. At the national level, forms are discarded after two years."

  Inner City Press asked how this relates to Myanmar disputes that the Rohingya Muslims are in fact from Myanmar, and relatedly asked about people in Haitian descent who are in the Dominican Republic (and now being deported), and Palestinians not formally refugees who are in Lebanon.

  UNICEF's Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta deferred the question to Claudia Cappa, Statistics and Monitoring Specialist who said that her agency favors registration being "confidential and secure," to not play into discrimination.

 The plight of Palestinians in Lebanon was not addressed. UNICEF's report says: "In Lebanon, most Palestinian children are registered as refugees, but those who do not have this official status cannot have their birth registered."

  On Mali, on December 3 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky about Amnesty International's report that Mali has locked up children:

Inner City Press: on Mali, there was a report put out by Amnesty International, naming very specifically children that are incarcerated by the Malian Army and authorities and saying they should be released and describing exactly how they were imprisoned. Given that MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) works with the Malian army and there is a UN presence there, including human rights monitoring, has the UN chimed in on this? Are they seeking the release of these children detainees of the Malian authorities?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Iíll need to check. I donít have anything on that, Matthew.

After a couple days, UN Peacekeeping through Nesirky's office provided this response, on children:

To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Subject: Your question on Mali [children]

Regarding your question on Mali and minors in detention, please see the following from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations:

ďMINUSMA and UNICEF are working closely with the Malian authorities on the issue of minors in detention. A small number of individuals are reportedly detained by the Malian gendarmerie. Their age, however, remains to be determined due to lack of birth certificates and other documentation.

The United Nations has a good working relationship with the Malian justice and correction authorities and we are confident that a specific mechanism to address this issue can be put in place jointly by the United Nations and the Malian Government.Ē

  If the UN has such a "good working relationship with the Malian justice and correction authorities," as Inner City Press asked, where's the investigation and prosecution of those in the Malian Army who shot unarmed protesters in Kidal?

And where, given what the UN's own UNICEF said on December 11, is the assumption when a dispute exists as to age that the person is, in fact, a child?

Here is from the Amnesty report on Mali, which UNICEF should now act on:

"One boy (16) was arrested in Kidal by Malian security forces more than two months ago when he came out of a shop and a grenade went off across the road. The security officers accused him of throwing the grenade and beat him, blindfolded him, tied his hands and feet together and burnt him with a cigarette all over his arms.

"Another boy (15) joined MUJAO as he was desperately poor and heard they were paying people. He left after months of not being paid and was arrested by Malian security forces in his home village of Kadji (near Gao). The Malian soldiers tied him up, beat him in the back and blindfolded him."

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