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India, Pakistan, Afghanistan feature in UN report on grave violations committed against children

By Manoj Rijal, New York: The United Nations has reported incidents of grave violations committed against children worldwide, in which, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been highlighted as the countries with the maximum cases of child rights violations among South Asian countries.

In an annual report of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Children and Armed Conflict released on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, incidents of children’s killing and maiming, abduction, sexual abuse and recruitment in militia have been widely reported.

“The United Nations received reports of child recruitment and use in Jammu and Kashmir (in India). Five children, some as young as 14, were reportedly recruited by militant groups, including Hizbul Mujahideen and Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind,”said the report on India.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, 31 children between the ages of 7 and 17 were allegedly killed, including during government armed forces operations.”

In Pakistan, 7 children were killed and 56 were injured in 36 incidents.

“Of those 36 incidents, 20 were attributed to armed groups, including attacks claimed by Tehrik-e Taliban in Balochistan, Killa Abdullah and the Islamic State in Quetta. The remaining 16 incidents involved the cross-border attacks between Pakistan and India that reportedly killed 4 and maimed 18 children,” the report said.

A total of 34 attacks on schools, injuring 26 students, were also reported in Pakistan. Among them, 14 attacks targeted girls’ education and occurred on a single day in August, 2018 in Chilas of Gilgit-Baltistan.

In Afghanistan,children continued to bear the brunt of the conflict, accounting for 28 per cent of all civilian casualties, with 3,062 verified cases of children who were killed and maimed in 2018, with the number of children killed (927) being the highest number ever recorded in Afghanistan.

The UN verified the recruitment and use of 45 boys and 1 girl, with some of the children recruited as young as 8, who were used for combat, at checkpoints, to plant improvised explosive devices, to carry out suicide attacks or other violations, or for sexual exploitation.

Armed groups were responsible for 44 per cent of child casualties (1,343), including the Taliban (997), ISIL-KP (217), unidentified armed groups (114), self-proclaimed ISIL-KP (7) and different armed groups (8).

The United Nations attributed 34 per cent of child casualties (1,051) to government and pro-government forces, while another 15 per cent of the child casualties were jointly attributed to government and pro-government forces and the armed groups. Some 6 per cent of the casualties could not be attributed to a specific party to the conflict and 1 per cent was caused by cross-border shelling.

Raising alarm on children’s vulnerability in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, UN Secretary General Guterres said the respective governments need to take concrete steps to mitigate these problems and protect the children.

On India, in particular, Guterres said he remains concerned on the grave situation of the children.

“I welcome the government’s measures to provide protection to children, notably through the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, but remain concerned by the reported child casualties and the recruitment and use of children in some areas of the country,” Guterres said.

“I encourage the (Indian) government to put in place prevention and accountability measures to hold perpetrators of grave violations to account in view of ending and preventing grave violations against children.”

On the situation in Pakistan, Guterres said he is seriously concerned about an increase in the number of child casualties.

“I am seriously concerned by the reported spike in the number of child casualties and attacks on schools, including the targeting of girls’ education, as well as attacks relating to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” the Secretary General said.

“I welcome the (Pakistani) government’s efforts to protect workers conducting the polio campaign and call on the government to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and take preventive measures to protect schools,” the Secretary General said.

Likewise, on the situation in Afghanistan, Guterres said he is concerned about the recruitment of children by the various armed groups.

“I am concerned about the continued recruitment and use of children by armed groups, including for combat roles, as well as about attacks that affect access to education and health, including during elections, demining activities and vaccination campaigns, and demand that concerned parties, notably the Taliban and ISIL-KP, put an immediate halt to such actions,” the UN Secretary General said.

“I strongly encourage the (Afghan) government to prioritize the protection of schools and hospitals during elections. I urge listed parties to conflict to engage with the United Nations so as to elaborate action plans.”

Of the total 193 member states, the UN identified 20 countries as having the severe conflict situations, where serious child abuse cases were (and are) extremely high.

Among them, five countries were from the middle east (Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel & Palestine), while one was from North Africa (Libya). Likewise, seven countries were from Africa (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan) and one was from South America (Colombia). Myanmar, Thailand and Philippines, along with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, were from the Asia-Pacific region.

In these 20 conflict-hit countries, the UN verified more than 24,000 cases of grave violations against children in a single year in 2018.

Of those all violations, 12,000 children were either killed or maimed, while 2,493 children were abducted from homes, schools and public spaces by parties to conflict for recruitment, abuse and exploitation.

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