The United Nations monitors the war in Ukraine for human rights violations against children

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations announced on Monday that it will begin monitoring the war in Ukraine and the conflicts in Ethiopia, Mozambique and central Africa’s Sahel for abuses against children, including killings, injuries, recruitment, rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his annual report to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict, said these four new conflicts add to the 21 conflicts the UN already monitors for violations of children’s rights. He said the latter conflicts had seen “a high number of serious violations” in 2021.

The UN chief said child protection has been severely compromised by escalating conflicts, the proliferation of armed groups, landmines and improvised explosive devices, explosive weapons in populated areas, heightened humanitarian crises and violations of humanitarian and human rights laws.

Virginia Gamba, the UN special envoy for children and armed conflict, said at a press conference that “incursions by extremely violent armed groups, military coups and instability, and violent electoral processes in fragile states in 2021 have left 19,100 children victims of serious human rights violations in the 21 situations in countries.” and regions we monitored.”

The United Nations said it had verified nearly 24,000 “serious violations” against children in 2021, including over 1,300 committed previously.

The highest number of violations over the past year was the 2,515 killings and 5,555 injuries of children, followed by the recruitment and use of 6,310 youth in conflicts, the report said.

In the past year, the number of child abductions has increased by over 20% and cases of sexual violence against children have continued to rise, also by over 20%.

The highest number of “serious violations” confirmed by the United Nations were in Afghanistan, Congo, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, it said.

While 70% of serious assaults were directed at boys, that number has declined and “the number of girls who have been killed, mutilated, or who have been abducted and sexually assaulted has increased, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin,” it says in the report.

Guterres said in the report that Ukraine was included in the surveillance effort “due to the high intensity of this conflict” and given the injuries to civilians, including children. He urged Gamba to urgently work with all parties to address child protection and prevention of abuse against them.

He said Mozambique was added because of “the seriousness and number of reported violations,” including the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and kidnappings.

The UN chief said Ethiopia would be added given “the severity of clashes in 2021” between government forces and police, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and other parties, including militias and regional forces. He cited violence against children, including killings, rapes, sexual assaults, kidnappings and attacks on schools.

Gamba said the central Sahel region, which includes parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, has been included in the child serious injury monitoring and reporting list.

Human Rights Watch and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, both criticized Guterres for failing to provide essential information about human rights abuses against children in Ukraine, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch also criticized the secretary-general for failing to include perpetrators in the armed conflicts in the three countries on the United Nations’ blacklist of grave human rights abuses against children. Watchlist director Adrianne Lapar said Guterres “missed an opportunity to investigate abuses and hold parties accountable”.

Both organizations also slammed the UN chief for removing Israel from the “list of shame” for the deaths of 78 Palestinian children and 982 injuries in 2021.

In the report, Guterres said if Israel’s high number of violations in 2021 repeats itself in 2022, it should be added to the list. He also said that if a significant spike in cases of violence against Israeli children over the past year is repeated this year, armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, be listed.

Becker called the failure to list Israel “another missed opportunity for accountability” and said “other armed forces or groups were listed for far fewer violations.” Lapar said, “Year after year, Israeli government forces have gotten away with committing serious crimes against children with virtual impunity,” and “The Secretary-General must bring the Israeli government up to the same standard as any other warring faction.”

The UN sanctions blacklist annexed to the report adds some new armed groups, including the breakaway Colombian group Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Colombian People’s Army for the Recruitment and Use of Children and Burkina Faso’s militant group Jama Nusrat Ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin for serious violations. The United Nations monitors the war in Ukraine for human rights violations against children

Dustin Huang

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