(New York) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should apply consistent standards when deciding which countries and armed groups to list in his annual report on grave violations against children in conflict, Human Rights Watch said today.

The report to the Security Council, expected in mid-June 2015, lists parties to armed conflicts that have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law against children. The violations include unlawful killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence, and recruiting children as soldiers. Ban should list all countries and armed groups that have repeatedly committed these violations, and resist reported pressure from Israel and the United States to remove Israel from the draft list.

“Secretary-General Ban can strengthen child protection in war by compiling his list based on facts, not political pressure,” said Philippe Bolopion, crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Applying consistent standards would add some long-time abusive parties to the list, including Israel and Hamas, for their wartime conduct harming children.”

The draft 2015 report prepared by the secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, recommended adding Israel and Hamas to the annexed list of parties – the so-called “List of Shame” – due to their repeated violations against children, media reports have said. It is not known if she also recommended adding other parties.

One report citing UN officials said that Israel has been pressing the secretary-general to drop the Israel Defense Forces from the draft list, an allegation the Israeli government denies. The US government has also been lobbying the secretary-general on Israel’s behalf, another report said.

The 2014 UN report and annex listed 59 parties to armed conflict, including government armed forces from 8 countries.

In a letter to Ban on April 27, Human Rights Watch expressed concern that some governments and armed groups have avoided the “List of Shame” in the past despite being named repeatedly in the body of the report as a grave violator of children’s rights in conflict. The secretary-general has described the threshold for inclusion in the list as a “pattern” of violations involving a “multiple commission of acts.”

In addition to Israel and Hamas, Human Rights Watch recommended listing armed groups in Pakistan, Thailand, and India for serious violations against children, including attacks on schools and the recruitment of child soldiers. These parties have been repeatedly referenced in recent secretary-general reports.

The annual reports have mentioned violations by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups every year since 2005. Violations by Israel in 2014 documented by Human Rights Watch include:

  • The unlawful killing of children in the occupied West Bank, such as Nadim Nawareh and Mohammed Salameh, both 17, whom Israeli forces shot and killed on May 15 in Beitunia, and 15-year-old Mahmoud Dudeed, shot and killed on June 20 in Dura;
  • Deaths of children from apparently unlawful Israeli attacks in Gaza, including the killing of four boys on July 16 near the Gaza City port, the killing of nine civilians, including two 15-year-old boys, at a café near Khan Yunis on July 9, and the killing of two children and five of their relatives when an airstrike hit their home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp on July 10. An eighth casualty in the July 10 attack had joined the Qassam Brigades, the Hamas armed wing, a few months earlier but was a low-level member, indicating that the attack was disproportionate if not indiscriminate; and
  • Unlawful attacks on or near three schools in Gaza housing displaced people that in total killed 46 civilians, including 17 children.

Violations during 2014 by Palestinian armed groups, including the Qassam Brigades, included:

  • The repeated launching of indiscriminate rockets and mortars into Israeli population centers, killing six civilians, one of them a 4-year-old boy. These unlawful attacks severely disrupted life in southern Israel, leading thousands of people, including families with children, to leave their communities temporarily in search of safety, and forcing children to seek safety in bomb shelters;
  • The repeated launching of rockets from densely populated areas in Gaza, placing children and other civilians living there at risk of retaliatory attacks; and
  • The use of at least three empty schools in Gaza to store weapons, two of which may have been used for launching rockets or mortars.

The secretary-general’s previous reports have cited many additional instances of grave violations against children in Israel and Palestine, based on information collected by the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict. The 2014 report, for example, covering violations in 2013, cited nearly a dozen cases of Palestinian children killed by Israeli security forces; over 1,200 Palestinian children injured; and 41 incidents of damage to school facilities, interruption of classes, and injury to students in which Israeli security forces were responsible. The report also cited violations by Palestinian armed groups, including the launching of over 63 rockets from Gaza into Israel, resulting in the disruption of schooling for over 12,000 Israeli children. 

Inclusion of a party on the secretary-general’s list triggers increased response from the UN and potential Security Council sanctions, such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and asset freezes. For a country or armed group to be removed from the list, the UN must verify that the party has ended the abuses after carrying out an action plan negotiated with the UN.

“The integrity and impact of the secretary-general’s report is damaged when repeat-offenders are left off the list,” Bolopion said. “Failure to include countries and groups that are known offenders will harm a report that’s been a powerful tool to protect children in war.”

For the full letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/node/135507