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UN shields Israel from accountability for atrocities against children
A Palestinian boy walks past the rubble of his family's former house in Gaza City’s Shuja’iyya neighborhood, on May 11, 2015, which was destroyed by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.
Ramallah, June 8, 2015–Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) is deeply troubled by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision 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. Israel’s armed forces were reportedly recommended by Ms. Leila Zerrougui, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), for inclusion in the list for killing and maiming children as well as carrying out attacks against schools. Recently, the United States reportedly pressured Ban Ki-moon, who holds sole discretion in the matter, against taking this action. This is believed to be the first time the Secretary-General has not accepted the recommendation of the SRSG-CAAC.
“By removing Israel’s armed forces from the children’s ‘list of shame’, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has provided tacit approval for Israeli forces to continue carrying out grave violations against children with impunity,” said Khaled Quzmar, DCIP’s general director. “It is deplorable that a proven and strong evidence-based accountability tool to protect children during armed conflict has been significantly undermined in an effort to shield Israel from accountability.”
The Secretary-General's annual report on children and armed conflict, released today, states that 557 Palestinian children were killed in 2014, the third highest behind Afghanistan (710) and Iraq (679) and significantly more than in Syria (368). At least 543 schools were damaged or destroyed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), which was the highest recorded number of all situations in 2014, according to the report.
Last week, DCIP called on Ban Ki-moon to resist political pressure against holding Israel accountable, and Human Rights Watch sent him a letter urging him to “apply consistent criteria when determining which parties to list, including all armed forces and non-state armed groups where there is credible evidence of a pattern of violations.” The draft list also included Palestinian armed groups, but the Secretary-General also removed them from the final version. Over the past 10 months, DCIP has led evidence-based advocacy efforts urging Israel's inclusion in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's annual "list of shame" for killing and maiming children and carrying out attacks on schools in Gaza.
The decision to remove Israel’s armed forces from the draft list comes despite a report released in late April by a UN Board of Inquiry established by the Secretary-General that found Israel responsible for strikes on UN schools and shelters in Gaza that killed at least 44 Palestinians, including children.
During Israel’s most recent military offensive, known as “Operation Protective Edge”, and as in previous offensives, Israeli armed forces carried out a significant number of direct attacks on civilian homes and other civilian buildings, including schools, killing over 500 Palestinian children and injuring another 3,374 children in attacks throughout Gaza in July and August 2014.
Since 2007, a monitoring group, led by the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, has reported on grave violations against children in Israel and the OPT. The group includes international, Israeli, and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies. 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.
Detailed and comprehensive data and information on grave violations against children in the OPT has been included in each of the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict since 2006.
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.