While addressing the Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict on Tuesday, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo noted that 2016 was a “horrifying year” for children in countries engaged in armed conflicts.
He added that the international efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes against children must be strengthened and impunity must end in order to prevent new cycles of violence against our children.
The full text of Khoshroo’s statement reads as follows:
“In the Name of God, the most Compassionate the most Merciful
I would like to begin by thanking the French presidency for organizing this open debate. I would also like to thank the SG for presenting his annual report on “Children and armed conflict” as contained in S/2017/821, as well as the briefers for their valuable input in this debate.
According to the SG’s report, 2016 was another horrifying year for children who continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict.
At least 4,000 verified violations by government forces and more than 11,500 verified violations by the range of non-State armed groups have occurred the relevant reporting period. They perpetrated acts of violence against children, launched indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, targeted schools and health facilities and detained children in large numbers.
The scale and severity of the violations committed against children in 2016 reached alarming levels and included the killing and maiming of children, denial of humanitarian access and various forms of violence against children. The international efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes against children in situations of armed conflict must be strengthened and impunity must end in order to prevent new cycles of violence against our children.
Ensuring full compliance with international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law by all parties must be the cornerstone of our prevention efforts.
The defeat of Daesh and Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, in Syria and Iraq, has been a positive development in this regard, but we should never forget the inhumane tactics employed by such violent extremist groups used to inflict terror and for the purpose of political brainwashing, ransom, retaliation or sexual exploitation. We must also remember that other terror groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabab ravaging other parts of the world and terrorizing children. Likewise, the targeting of the children of religious and ethnic minority groups, such as what we witness in Myanmar, is still a matter of grave concern. The latest report of the SG lists the most dangerous situations for children.
The 2016 report on this issue and other UN agencies documented that the numbers of Palestinian children in military detention reached the highest levels recorded since 2010, with 444 children (including 15 girls). Use of live ammunition is frequent by Israeli forces leading to the killing of 30 Palestinian children this year. On 20 September, the world witnessed how Israeli forces continued shooting at a sixteen-year-old boy in Bani Na’im after he had fallen to the ground following initial gunshots to his legs. It was just one example of thousands atrocities Israeli regime commits every single day against Palestinian civilians, including children, who resist the illegal occupation and apartheid policies of the Israeli regime. Today, it is only in Palestine that resistance against foreign occupation is called terrorism.
The world cannot forget the 540 Palestinian children that have been killed and the 2955 of them who were injured, among them 1000 are estimated to be permanently disabled, as a result of the latest Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2014. The number of schools, kindergartens and hospitals damaged or completely destroyed by Israeli forces during the same period is the highest recorded numbers of all situations in 2014. Israeli denial of humanitarian access to the entire occupied Palestinian people endangers the survival and the wellbeing of the Palestinian children which adds yet another record for Israeli regime in ignoring international humanitarian law without being held accountable for its grave violations against children.
In the West Bank, the United Nations has documented 74 incidents of attacks on schools or protected persons in the context of operations by Israeli security forces, clashes in and around schools or closure of schools as a result of attacks, with over 8,000 students affected, particularly in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah Governorates. Incidents resulted in damage to 3 schools, injury and physical assault of students: 68 incidents were attributed to Israeli security forces and 6 to Israeli settlers.
According to the SG’s report, the killing and maiming of children remained the most prevalent violation in Yemen, with 1,340 child casualties with 502 children killed and 838 injured, of which 683 or more than 50% were attributed to the Saudi led coalition and the rest to all others including ISIL and AQAP.
Yemen entered the third year of its war that carries with it a devastating costs on civilians and on the critical infrastructure they rely upon. The international community has witnessed the devastation in which the Yemeni people now live, around 15 million people lack adequate access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, or health services; and about 7 million people are faced with the threat of famine. Worse, all of this has been exacerbated by the largest single-year outbreak of cholera ever recorded. This includes over 800,000 suspected cases of cholera across 90 percent of communities in Yemen, a country in which only 45 percent of health facilities are functioning. The war in Yemen is a man-made crisis, generating intolerable suffering for the Yemeni people. Most of the responsibility for this devastating situation falls upon the Saudi -led coalition that seek military solutions for this crisis.
In the face of children being killed and their homes, schools and hospitals being destroyed, it is disappointing that political pressures and lobbying are exerted to change the due course of action, namely naming and shaming the killers. Israel was never blacklisted despite flagrantly targeting the Palestinian children in Gaza and other occupied territories. Last year, the Saudi -led coalition was first blacklisted, based on the UN findings indicating that it was directly responsible for 60% of child casualties, including the deaths of 785 children due to bombings of schools and hospitals. But surprisingly, its name was finally removed from the list, again due to heavy pressures and lobbying. This year we have noticed that the name of Saudi led Coalition is in the list, though as an “improving child killer”.
While the world seems mostly unresponsive and indifferent about the killing and suffering of children, an even darker fact is that even if this fighting were to stop today, underdeveloped growth and delayed cognitive development would linger for an entire generation.
We would like to take this opportunity to call for accountability for the war crimes and violations against our children committed by anybody, everywhere. Being political and selective in this case is tantamount to betraying the most vulnerable people on the planet, the children, whom this process is designed to protect. It also discredits UN reports and seriously damages the universality of the application of IHL.