The horrendous killings of children in military conflicts and civil wars – both by national armed forces and militant groups – have triggered widespread condemnation by human rights organizations worldwide. But a “list of shame” singling out some of these perpetrators have been politicized leaving out some of these countries.
According to Human Rights Watch, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been repeatedly criticized for letting national armed forces and non-state armed groups off the hook for grave violations against children in war. In 2020, Guterres “delisted” the coalition led by Saudi and United Arab Emirates for killing and maiming children in Yemen, as well as Myanmar’s army for recruiting and using child soldiers.
The numbers, however, are staggering, according to a new report released by the Eminent Persons Group, including Lt-General (Ret) Romeo Dallaire, the former UN force commander during Rwanda’s genocide; Yanghee Lee, former chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Benyam Dawit Mezmur, a child rights expert; and Allan Rock, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations.
Afghan security forces have reportedly killed or injured more than 4,000 children since 2014 but have not been listed.
In 2014, Israeli forces killed 557 Palestinian children and injured 4,249, largely during fighting in Gaza. But Israeli forces were not on the list of shame– even though the number of children killed was the third highest in the world that year.
In Somalia, the armed group Al-Shabab has been repeatedly listed for sexual violence against children, but the Somali National Army has not been listed, despite comparable numbers of cases.
Without an accurate list, the UN’s children and armed conflict framework is seriously undermined. The experts urged the secretary-general to change his approach and list all perpetrators “without fear or favor.” Without such action, they warn, children will be put at even greater risk, said HRW. “The secretary-general should take the experts’ recommendations to heart and put the protection of children first”.
Mouin Rabbani, Senior Fellow with the Institute for Palestine Studies and Co-Editor, Jadaliyya, an independent ezine produced by the Arab Studies Institute, told IPS, “It seems to me indisputable that political factors are in play. In part this consists of the traditional deference to the powerful and their clients, which is compensated for with sanctimonious outrage – which would otherwise be justified – against the weak and marginalized”. He argued, it reflects electoral considerations, with Guterres gearing up for election to a second term. And in part it reflects financial concerns, with the UN continuing to suffer a budget crunch and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia being once again given a pass.