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UN should resist political pressure against holding Israel accountable
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses with students during his visit to a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip. The school was damaged by Israeli shelling during the Israeli military assault on Gaza in July and August 2014.
Ramallah, June 4, 2015–Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) urges UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to resist political pressure not to include Israel’s armed forces in his annual list of groups that commit grave violations of children’s rights.
Each year, the UN Secretary-General submits a report on children and armed conflict to the UN Security Council that includes a “list of shame” of armed forces and groups. Most expectations indicate that Israel’s military will be on the list for killing and maiming children as well as carrying out attacks against schools. In response, the United States has reportedly pressured Ban Ki-moon, who holds sole discretion in the matter, against taking this action.
“Ample evidence exists of Israel’s armed forces committing acts that amount to grave violations against children during armed conflict,” said Khaled Quzmar, DCIP’s general director. “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should ensure that decisions to list armed forces or groups remain impartial, evidence-based, and absent of politics to safeguard the integrity of this accountability mechanism.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1612, adopted in 2005, formally established a UN-led, evidence-based monitoring and reporting mechanism (MRM) on grave violations against children during armed conflict. The six grave violations against children, as defined by the Security Council, include killing and maiming, child recruitment, sexual violence, attacks on schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access for children, and abduction.
MRM working groups systematically gather information and submit documentation on the major child rights violations for inclusion in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. Credible evidence of armed forces or groups committing these atrocities against children obligates the Secretary-General to list them in the annex of his annual report.
The significance of the MRM is that it provides a process for accountability when armed forces or armed groups violate universal and fundamental principles. Over the past decade, the global MRM has significantly increased protections for children during armed conflict. However, it has failed to foster the compliance of Israeli forces with international child protection standards.
Since 2007, a monitoring group, led by the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, has reported on grave violations against children in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The group includes international, Israeli, and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies. Each annual report on children and armed conflict issued by the Secretary-General since 2006 has included detailed and comprehensive information on grave violations against children in the OPT. The group’s bulletin on Israel’s military offensive in Gaza last summer includes extensive and detailed evidence of the killing and maiming of Palestinian children as well as attacks against their schools.
In December 2014, DCIP sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon urging him to consider listing Israel’s armed forces for committing grave violations of children’s rights. The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) reaffirmed this call in a February 2015 letter. Last month, following a UN inquiry that found Israel responsible for strikes on UN schools and shelters in Gaza, DCIP submitted a second letter on behalf of PHROC demanding accountability.
The Secretary-General will likely release the upcoming annual report on children and armed conflict in mid-June 2015.