Shock at the Scale of Grave Violations Committed Against Children in 2015
New York – In his Annual report on children and armed conflict covering the year 2015, the UN Secretary-General expressed his shock at the scale of grave violations committed against children in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Emerging and escalating crises had a horrific impact on boys and girls. The situation in Yemen was particularly worrisome with a five-fold increase in the number of children recruited and six times more children killed and maimed compared to 2014. Violations committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continued to have a devastating impact on children, including persistent child recruitment and use and boys featured as child soldiers in social media and in some cases as executioners. In Nigeria, Boko Haram increased suicide attacks, including by using 21 girls as suicide bombers in crowded public spaces. The armed group spread its activities from northeastern Nigeria to neighboring countries, causing a significant number of casualties among civilians and large-scale displacements.
“In several situations of conflict, aerial operations contributed to creating complex environments in which large numbers of children were killed and maimed. State-allied armed groups and militia have also increasingly been used to fight in support of Government forces, in some cases recruiting and using children,” said Leila Zerrougui, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
In Syria, thousands of children have been killed during over five years of war. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of child deaths and injuries since the UN started systematically documenting civilian casualties in 2009. In Somalia, there was a 50% increase in the number of recorded violations against children. In South Sudan, children were victims of gruesome violations, particularly during brutal military offensives against opposition forces.
“I am also gravely concerned by the increasing number of children deprived of liberty for their alleged association with parties to conflict. I call upon Member States to treat these children primarily as victims to ensure the full protection of their human rights and to urgently put in place alternatives to detention and prosecution of children,” declared Leila Zerrougui.
Reducing the impact of violent extremism on children
Again in 2015, children were significantly affected by violent extremism and too often the direct targets of acts intended to cause maximum civilian casualties and terrorize communities. In addition, the response to armed groups perpetrating violent extremism created new challenges for the protection of children.
In the report, the Secretary-General urged Member States to ensure their engagement in hostilities and responses to all threats to peace and security, including in efforts to counter violent extremism, are conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. He added that it is “unacceptable that failure to do so has resulted in numerous violations of children’s rights”.
The report recommended that Member States include specific mitigating measures for the protection of children in their responses, particularly when conducting aerial bombing campaigns or ground operations, and called on all parties to conflict to refrain from using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, and to consider making a commitment to this effect.
Attacks on schools, hospitals and protected persons
Attacks on schools and hospitals were prevalent in 2015 and documented in 19 out of 20 situations of conflict. The increasing use of airstrikes and explosive weapons in populated areas had a detrimental impact on schools and hospitals. Medical and education personnel continued to be threatened or attacked. In some conflict situations, armed groups particularly targeted girl’s access to education or attacked schools and teachers to impose their own curriculum.
With the adoption of resolution 2225 a year ago, the UN Security Council requested the Secretary-General to list parties to conflict that engage in patterns of abduction of children. As a result, Boko Haram, ISIL, the Lord’s Resistance Army and Al-Shabaab are among six parties listed in the report for this violation.
Children, Not Soldiers
The momentum created by the campaign ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ helped consolidate the emerging consensus that children do not belong in security forces in conflict. In March 2016, the Government of Sudan, the last of the Campaign countries, signed an Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children. All Governments identified by the Secretary-General for the recruitment and use of children in their security forces have now engaged in an Action Plan process and there was notable progress in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar. Despite prior commitments by their Governments, children in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen faced challenging conflict situations.
Engagement with non-State armed groups
In 2015, there was strong engagement with non-State armed groups, within or outside the framework of peace processes, in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Mali, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sudan and South Sudan, which led to the release of over 8,000 children.
“The recent agreement between the Government of Colombia and the FARC to release all children associated with the armed group is historic,” said the Special Representative.
“I am encouraged by the perspective of more constructive engagement with non-state armed groups this year, but, I wish to remind everyone that it is crucial to ensure appropriate resources for the reintegration of all the children released, with special attention given to psycho-social support and the needs of girls,” she concluded.
The report in numbers:
20 situations of conflict with parties listed in 14 countries
The countries with parties listed are: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, DRC, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen.
Situations of concern with no parties listed: India, Israel/State of Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Thailand)
60 parties to conflict listed for grave violations against children
9 Government security forces
51 non-State armed groups
The UN Security Council has identified 5 triggers for listing parties to conflict:
Recruitment and use of children
(Resolution 1379 adopted in 2001, first listings in 2002)
58 parties to conflict : 7 government security forces, 51 non-State armed groups
Killing and maiming of children
(resolution 1881, adopted in 2009, first listings in 2010)
19 parties to conflict : 4 government security forces, 15 non-State armed groups
Rape and other forms of sexual violence
(resolution 1881, adopted in 2009, first listings in 2010):
14 parties to conflict : 2 government security forces, 12 non-State armed groups
Attacks on schools and hospitals
(resolution 1998, adopted in 2011, first listings in 2012)
10 parties to conflict: 2 government security forces, 8 non-State armed groups
Abduction of children
(resolution 2225, adopted in 2015, first listings in 2016):
6 parties to conflict : 1 government security force, 5 non-State armed groups
In accordance with Security Council resolution 2225 (2015), Al-Shabaab (Somalia), Boko Haram (Nigeria), LRA (Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo), ISIL (Iraq) and the Taliban (Afghanistan) are listed for abduction of children. Those five groups have committed patterns of abduction of children over a number of years. SPLA (South Sudan) is also listed for abduction as a result of hundreds of violations attributed to it in 2015. Other parties have been added to existing trigger violations. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Raia Mutomboki5 is listed for the recruitment and use of and sexual violence against children. In Nigeria, the Civilian Joint Task Force is listed for the recruitment and use of children, with more than 50 verified cases in 2015. In South Sudan, SPLA is now also listed for sexual violence against children, with more than 100 incidents attributed to government forces. In Yemen, owing to the very large number of violations attributed to the two parties, the Houthis/Ansar Allah and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are listed for killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals.