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Report of the Secretary-General
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council presidential statement (S/PRST/2006/48), by which the Council requested me to submit a report on the further progress in the implementation of resolutions 1612 (2005), 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003) and 1539 (2004). In accordance with the Council’s request, the report includes information on compliance in ending the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in violation of applicable international law and other grave violations being committed against children affected by armed conflict.1 The report also includes information on progress made in the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism; information on progress made in the development and implementation of action plans (called for in para. 7 of resolution 1612 (2005)); and information on the mainstreaming of child protection in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
2. Pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003), 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005), the report covers compliance in ending the recruitment and use of children and other grave violations, including the killing and maiming of children, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, denial of humanitarian access to children and attacks against schools and hospitals by parties to armed conflict.
3. The preparation of the present report involved broad consultations within the United Nations, in particular with the Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict at Headquarters, country-level task forces on monitoring and reporting, peacekeeping and political missions and United Nations country teams, as well as with concerned Member States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Country-level task forces on monitoring and reporting, peacekeeping and political missions, and United Nations country teams are the primary sources of information for the report.
4. References to reports, cases, incidents, and so on in the present report refer to information that is gathered, vetted and verified for accuracy. In situations where access to, obtaining or independently verifying information received is hampered by factors such as insecurity or access restrictions, it is qualified as such.
5. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), in identifying the situations that fall within the scope of her mandate, my Special Representative for children and armed conflict was guided by the criteria for determining the existence of an armed conflict found in international humanitarian law and international jurisprudence.2 In the performance of her mandate, my Special Representative has adopted a pragmatic and cooperative approach to this issue, with a humanitarian emphasis, focusing on ensuring broad and effective protection for children exposed and affected by conflict in situations of concern. Reference to a situation of concern is not a legal determination and reference to a non-State party does not affect its legal status.
II. Cross-cutting issues of concern
9. Increasingly, we are also encountering cases of children being detained for alleged association with armed groups in violation of international standards, for example in Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Israel and the Philippines. Many of the detained children are subjected to ill treatment, torture, forceful interrogation and deprivation of food and education. The children also lack recourse to prompt and appropriate legal assistance, and usually are not separated from adults. In certain situations, some of these children have been used as guides and informers for Government military operations, usually under coercion. During the reporting period, some children have been released owing to United Nations advocacy efforts, such as in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, many children remain in detention centres, local prisons, interrogation centres and holding camps.
A. Information on compliance and progress in situations on the agenda of the Security Council
Developments in Lebanon
60. Civilians, including several thousand children and family members, were caught in the fighting in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, northern Lebanon, which lasted from 20 May to 2 September 2007. It is estimated that the fighting between the Lebanese Army and the armed extremist group of Fatah al-Islam resulted in 40 Palestinian civilians killed and over 200 injured, including children. There are reports of use of Palestinian children by Palestinian armed factions and groups in the Palestinian refugee camps.
61. The extensive and unprecedented use by Israel of cluster bombs during the 2006 conflict left southern Lebanon severely contaminated with approximately
1 million unexploded submunitions and general unexploded ordnance. This continues to pose one of the most serious threats to children in southern Lebanon. From the cessation of hostilities on 14 August 2006 until 31 August 2007, 4 children have been killed and 66 injured as a result of unexploded munitions. On 24 and
25 December 2006, five children, aged 13 to 15 years, from Hanaway and Kaakaeyet al-Jiser, were injured by unexploded cluster bombs while playing. Israel has yet to provide the much-needed strike data on the quantity, types and location of the cluster bombs that were dropped.
Developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel
78. The situation of Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, remains grave, with continued Israeli military operations, incursions and raids throughout the territory, in addition to an escalation in internal hostilities resulting in intense fighting between rival Palestinian factions. During the reporting period, a total of 106 Palestinian children were killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; 58 per cent of whom were killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Seventy-four per cent of child deaths caused by IDF occurred in the Gaza Strip, mostly during military operations and artillery shelling. From 1 to 7 November 2006 alone, eight children were killed during the Israeli incursion, code-named “Operation autumn Clouds”, into Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
79. A total of 24 per cent of the 106 Palestinian children were killed as a result of factional violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Armed clashes between the Palestinian Executive Security Forces (ESF) and Al-Aqsa Brigades in Khan Younis on 26 January 2007 killed a 5-year-old Palestinian child. On 7 February 2007, an
8-year-old Palestinian boy died of wounds sustained when he was caught in armed clashes between ESF and the Presidential Guards of the Palestinian Authority in Bureij refugee camp.
80. A total of 323 Palestinian children were injured during the same period, 64 per cent of whom were injured by IDF in the West Bank, 10 per cent by IDF in the Gaza Strip, 7 per cent by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, 3 per cent in factional violence and 3 per cent owing to the reckless handling of explosives.
81. Five Israeli children, four living in Sderot and one in Kibbutz Karmiya near Ashkelon, were injured by Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants in the reporting period. Furthermore, two schools and one kindergarten in Sderot were damaged by home-made Palestinian rockets in May, July and August 2007.
82. Documenting the recruitment of children by Palestinian armed groups remains a challenge, and the extent of the phenomenon is not well known. Although there is no evidence of systematic attempts to recruit children for training or operations, militiamen from at least one Palestinian armed group have approached boys outside their school in Gaza requesting them to join paramilitary training. On 2 August 2007, the case of a 13-year-old boy recruited by Hamas militants in Gaza was reported. The boy had been asked by Hamas to monitor the streets and gather information on drug dealers and collaborators with Israel. On 30 August 2007, IDF soldiers on an anti-terror patrol in the northern Gaza Strip spotted a 16-year-old boy who was carrying two explosive devices intended to be detonated in a suicide bombing attack against them. In April 2007, during the mission of my Special Representative to the Middle East, Palestinian President Abbas and then Foreign Minister Abu Amr agreed to revive the code of conduct among Palestinian groups not to involve children in political violence, and to engage with UNICEF to devise a plan of action to prevent the use of children in such violence.
83.83. Reports also suggest that Shabak, Israel’s security agency, continues to seek to recruit Palestinian children to be used as collaborators inside prisons or upon their release. Data are extremely difficult to gather owing to the reluctance of child detainees to talk about these issues, especially while still in detention, and the lack of systematic monitoring. However, at least one case involving a 16-year-old boy was reported in 2007. Furthermore, IDF continues to force civilians, often minors, to enter potential zones of conflict before the soldiers in order to clear the area or limit casualties, although the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that practice to be illegal. Four cases of Palestinian children used by Israeli soldiers have been documented in 2007. In two separate incidents on 25 February 2007, during military operation “Hot Winter” in Nablus, an 11-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy were forced at gunpoint to walk in front of Israeli soldiers into houses which were thought to shelter militants. The children were physically coerced into carrying out searches for the soldiers. In another incident, during a military incursion into the Balata refugee camp on 11 April 2007, two boys aged 14 and 15 were assaulted and forced to sit on the bonnet of an Israeli jeep while youths were throwing stones at the jeep. These incidents are currently being investigated by IDF.
84. There were five cases of abduction, involving 10 children, registered by the United Nations during the reporting period. Four cases occurred in the Gaza Strip, one attributed to Palestinian armed groups and three to IDF. Another case was carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. On 17 June in the Tal al-Hawa area of Gaza, three children aged 11 to 16 were abducted by masked militants of the Preventive Security Forces, who accused them of collaboration with Hamas. The children were held at gunpoint and interrogated. They were released after a few hours.
85. Schools and hospitals continue to be attacked or occupied by both IDF and Palestinian armed groups, in some instances resulting in the killing or injury of children. There were at least 10 incidents where IDF soldiers attacked schools (both Palestinian Authority and UNRWA schools). In five of those attacks, Israeli soldiers used tear gas and sound bombs or stun grenades inside the schools. On 18 November 2006 in an UNRWA-run school in Beit Lahia, two students, aged 7 and 12, were shot and injured inside the school by IDF. In a separate incident in the West Bank, on 5 March 2007, IDF soldiers stormed the UNRWA-run Al-Jalazoun Basic Boys’ School and Basic Girls’ School and opened fire at students, injuring two in the head. In Gaza, Palestinian militants stormed several schools, and in three of those attacks, hand grenades were used. Damage to at least three schools or school property during fighting were reported.
86. At any given point during the reporting period, between 361 and 416 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli prisons and detention centres, including children as young as 12 years. Between 10 and 22 of those children were being held in administrative detention without charge or trial. The majority of prisoners were boys, while approximately 11 girls had been detained or were serving terms of imprisonment during this period. Over 90 per cent of children arrested, interrogated and charged before the military courts were convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. There are reports that some children held in detention undergo physical beatings and psychological torture, including threats of sexual violence. The systematic transfer of Palestinian child prisoners outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory into Israel is in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
87. An expert paper commissioned by a United Nations body found that the most serious consequence of the barrier and its associated regime, and its damaging humanitarian ripple effect, is an increasing occurrence of forced internal displacement, violations of associated rights and induced poverty. A total of 390 civilian structures were demolished during the reporting period, 117 in Gaza and 273 in the West Bank, leaving at least 1,842 people displaced, 717 in Gaza and 1,125 in the West Bank. The majority of affected persons are children. The denial of passage or delays at checkpoints has significantly affected the access of civilians, particularly children, to medical care and services, causing serious threat to their physical health. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that from October 2006 to August 2007, there were a total of 442 incidents of ambulances reporting delays or denied access at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank. In addition to home evictions and house demolitions, other causes of forced displacement are settlement expansion, restrictions on water and land use and restrictions on movement.
IV. Information on progress made in the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism and mainstreaming of child protection in United Nations peacekeeping operations
151. My Special Representative has undertaken several country missions to carry out high-level advocacy on issues of children and armed conflict and to assist the authorities, United Nations and civil society partners in improving the situation of children in armed conflict. Several of these country missions have been mandated by the Working Group. Cooperation from Governments in extending their invitation to my Special Representative has been instrumental in achieving those objectives. In the reporting period, missions to Sri Lanka (November 2006); the Sudan (January 2007); the Democratic Republic of the Congo (March 2007); Lebanon, Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel (April 2007); and Myanmar (June 2007) were carried out by my Special Representative or, in the case of Sri Lanka, by the Special Adviser to the Special Representative. Specific outcomes of those missions have been described under the relevant country situations in section III of the present report.
159. It is recommended that the Security Council consider giving equal care and attention to children affected by armed conflict in all situations of concern listed in the annexes to my report.
160. It is further recommended that the Security Council give equal weight to all categories of grave violations, including not only the recruitment and use of children, but also the killing and maiming of children, rape and other grave sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access to children.
161. While recognizing the efforts and cooperation by some countries, the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism within the framework of Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) should be supported in all situations of concern.
162. The Security Council is encouraged to continue to call upon parties in situations of armed conflict listed in the annexes to my report to prepare concrete time-bound action plans to halt the recruitment and use of children and other violations and abuses committed against children for which they are cited, including the killing and maiming of children, rape and other grave sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access to children, in violation of international obligations applicable to them, and to expand the call for action plans to all situations of concern.
163. I welcome the Security Council’s continuing consideration of effective targeted measures against parties to armed conflict who continue to systematically commit grave violations against children in armed conflict in defiance of recommendations by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and of Council resolutions. The Security Council should consider a range of measures, including a ban on the export or supply of arms, a ban on military assistance, the imposition of travel restrictions on leaders, their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions, and restriction of the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned.
164. The Security Council is encouraged to empower its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to recommend to the Council the imposition of targeted measures, and to monitor the implementation of such measures, on parties to armed conflict who commit grave violations against children in all situations of concern listed in the annexes to my report.
165. It is recommended that all future peacekeeping missions and relevant political missions include within their mandates child protection advisers, as appropriate, to strengthen monitoring and reporting and provide timely and accurate information for prompt advocacy and response for the protection of children affected by armed conflict in those situations.
166. Member States concerned should take effective action to bring to justice individuals responsible for the recruitment and use of children and other grave violations against children through national justice systems. The Security Council is encouraged to refer to the International Criminal Court, for investigation and prosecution, violations against children in armed conflict that fall within its jurisdiction.
167. Member States concerned should coordinate with my Special Representative on her engagement with non-State parties to ensure the broad and effective protection of children exposed to situations of concern.
168. States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child are encouraged to take measures to support the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; to strengthen national and international measures for the prevention of recruitment of children into armed forces or armed groups and their use in hostilities, in particular by signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and enacting legislation that explicitly prohibits the recruitment of children into armed forces/groups and their use in hostilities; to submit reports under the Optional Protocol to the Committee on the Rights of the Child; and to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction in order to strengthen the international protection of children against recruitment.
169. Member States are urged to work towards the implementation of a comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff and related personnel, thereby enabling children who are victims of or born as a result of such abuse to receive much-needed support.
170. Adequate resources and funding need to be made available by donors to national Governments, the United Nations and partners to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of all children who have been associated with armed forces or armed groups, including relevant and effective programmatic action that reinforces such efforts, while ensuring their long-term sustainability and viability.
171. Member States are urged to address immediately the grave humanitarian, human rights and development consequences of cluster munitions. To that end, Member States are encouraged to conclude a binding instrument that prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians; requires the destruction of current stockpiles of those munitions; and provides for clearance, risk education and other risk-mitigation activities, victim support, assistance and cooperation, and compliance and transparency measures.