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Children and armed conflict
Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (S/2003/1053)
The meeting resumed at 3.40 p.m.
Mr. Mekel (Israel): ...
In word and in deed, Israel has supported international initiatives aimed at protecting children from the devastation of armed conflict, including the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and its protocols, to which we became a signatory two years ago. Israel’s accession to the Convention was followed by our adoption of “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty”, a law that ensures that the rights of the child are guaranteed constitutional protection. The adoption of the Basic Law sparked a flurry of judicial and legislative activity that broadened the commitment of Israeli society to the principles of the Convention.
It goes without saying that the formal practice of forced conscription of children is abhorrent and must be outlawed. But the participation of children in armed conflict is not limited to formal military service. Children have also been recruited for roving militias, armed gangs and terrorist groups. In our region, children have been recruited and exploited by terrorist organizations as human shields, for the placing of explosives, as gunmen and even as suicide bombers. It is regrettable that the Secretary-General’s report fails again to make specific mention of this reprehensible tactic in our region. We regret also that the report does not address in more direct terms the plight of Israeli children suffering from a relentless terrorist campaign.
Both Israeli and Palestinian children continue to be the greatest victims of the terrorism that plagues our region. Over the last two years, Palestinian children have been increasingly used as human shields and have been mobilized for terrorist attacks, while the average age of suicide bombers has dropped significantly. For an ever-increasing number of Israeli children as well, growing up is becoming a painful experience.
Indeed, Israeli children are often the intended and preferred victims of terrorists. Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have directed many terrorist attacks specifically against children, including attacks on school buses, discotheques, pizza parlours and other locations where large numbers of children are known to gather.
In the conflict that plagues our region, as in any conflict, no one has a monopoly on the status of victim. The suffering of Israeli and Palestinian children must be acknowledged. If we deny the suffering and victimhood of the other side, we undermine the prospects of mutual understanding and tolerance that are the foundations of any lasting peace.
Recently in the General Assembly, unfortunately, there was an attempt to do just that. The General Assembly adopted for the second year in a row a resolution pertaining specifically to the situation facing Palestinian children. While Israel shares this concern for the plight of Palestinian children, we continue to believe that the issue of children should not be politicized and the situation of any group of children should not be singled out in this way, let alone distorted. Once this resolution was adopted and in order to rectify this imbalance, Israel reluctantly introduced a mirror resolution to draw attention to the suffering of Israeli children from terrorism. Unfortunately, a group of delegations, determined not to acknowledge that Israeli children were also victims in this conflict, sought to distort this resolution beyond recognition. As a result, Israel was compelled to withdraw its text. In doing so, we expressed the hope that Member States would see this unfortunate incident as a wakeup call to end the politicization and double standards in United Nations debates on issues of universal concern, such as the plight of children. We continue to hold to that hope today.
In conclusion, Israel welcomes the discussion of specific issues concerning the protection of children in armed conflict and the opportunity to express our firm support for the continuation of the monitoring process to that effect. We yearn for the day when peace is the prevailing global condition and there is no longer any need to deal with the specific impact of armed conflict on children. But, until that day, the international community must continue to act with resolve in extending protection to those who are most vulnerable and confronting with courage the factors that continue to feed this ugly phenomenon.
Madam President, in concurrence with your desire, I have read only a shortened version of our statement, and a full version is being distributed.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now call on the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Mr. Mekdad (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): ...
Progress made in the protection of children affected by armed conflict, as described in the Secretary-General’s report, is a source of satisfaction, and we welcome it. We have noted a strong will by the parties concerned with this issue to face up to the challenges before them. Nevertheless, and most regrettably, we see no concrete progress in protecting the children affected by the Israeli occupation of Arab land, including the occupied Syrian Golan. The grave situation remains and has indeed deteriorated.
The international community has been unable, to date, to implement international provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, let alone the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions related to the protection of Palestinian children, who, for decades, have been living a miserable life. Let me mention that, while we highly appreciate the reference in the report (S/2003/1053) to the fact that the situation of Palestinian children remains serious and unacceptable, we had hoped that the report would devote some ink to the issues related to the effects of preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching children affected by armed conflicts.
Mr. Aboul Gheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): ...
For a number of years now, the Security Council has been paying particular attention to the issue of refugee children, internally displaced children forced to flee their homes and those who have been forcefully recruited or sexually abused, with particular attention to girls, because they are most vulnerable to threats, particularly sexual violence. This is a commendable effort that we support and look forward to continuing. However, I should like to draw the attention of this Council to a category of children who seem to have been forgotten, that is, children under foreign occupation, particularly those children in occupied Palestinian territory who die daily because of continuing violations of their human rights and the brutal use of force. It is sufficient to quickly look at the numbers of child victims of the conflict to see the importance of taking up this issue and shedding light on it. We therefore call on the Security Council to take up the issue of children under foreign occupation. We call on the Council not to politicize the issue and to deal with this category of children with the same attention that it devoted to other groups of children in armed conflicts.
The meeting rose at 6.30 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A.