UN: Russian forces on blacklist for killing children in Ukraine

FILE - U.N secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a visit to the U.N. office in the capital Nairobi, Kenya on , May 3, 2023. Guterres implicitly criticized Cambodia’s upcoming elections Wednesday, May 31, 2023 for failing to be inclusive, after the top opposition party was not allowed to register. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations put Russian forces on its annual blacklist of countries that violate children’s rights in conflict for killing boys and girls and attacking schools and hospitals in Ukraine, according to a new report seen Thursday by The Associated Press.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the Security Council that he is “appalled” by the high number of “grave violations” against children in Ukraine in 2022, “shocked” at the number of attacks on schools and hospitals, “concerned” by the detention of children, and “troubled” that some Ukrainian children have been transferred to Russia.

The U.N. chief did not put Israel on the blacklist for grave violations against 1,139 Palestinian children, including 54 killings last year — as supporters had hoped.

Instead, he welcomed Israel’s engagement with the U.N. special envoy for children in armed conflict, Virginia Gamba and its “identification of practical measures including those proposed by the U.N.” to protect children.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told reporters Guterres “made a big mistake” in not listing the most extreme government in Israel’s history.

“It is very disappointing to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian children,” he said.

In the wide-ranging report, the secretary-general said that last year children were disproportionately affected by conflict. He said the U.N. verified grave violations against 13,469 children, including 2,985 who were killed, in 24 countries and one region.

“Grave violations” include the recruitment and use of youngsters by combatants, killings and injuries, sexual violence, abductions, and attacks on schools and hospitals.

Guterres said the spread of conflicts to new areas contributed to a 140% increase in grave violations in Myanmar and a 135% increase in South Sudan. An upsurge in activity by armed groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State, also caused a severe deterioration of the situation in the central Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso, leading to an 85% increase in grave violations.

Violations also increased in Colombia, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Syria, the secretary-general said.

While armed groups were responsible for 50% of the grave violations, Guterres said government forces were mainly responsible for the killing and maiming of children, for the attacks on schools and hospitals, and for the denial of humanitarian access.

The countries with the most verified violations were Congo, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Somalia and Syria, he said. By contrast, Afghanistan, Central African Republic and the Philippines saw a decrease in grave violations, and last year’s truce in Yemen contributed to a 40% drop in violations.

The report also lists two new countries of concern for children: Haiti and Niger.

Guterres said the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups were listed for carrying out 480 attacks on schools and hospitals, and for killing children, in particular through their shelling and airstrikes on cities and towns. According to the report, 136 Ukrainian children were killed and 518 injured.

The secretary-general urged Russian forces to abide by their obligations under international law and their own commitments to protect children, including by avoiding the military use of schools and hospitals, putting in place accountability and reparations measures, and exchanging information with the U.N. on all children in conflict-affected areas.

Guterres also urged Russia to ensure that no changes are made to the personal status of Ukrainian children, including their nationality.

Deportations of Ukrainian children have been a concern since Russia’s invasion, and the International Criminal Court increased pressure on Russia when it issued arrest warrants on March 17 for President Vladimir Putin and the Russian children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.

The U.N. chief said he is also concerned by the number of grave violations against children by Ukrainian forces and urged them to abide by protections for civilians under international law.

According to the report, Ukrainian armed forces were responsible for the deaths of 80 children and injuries to 175 others, as well as 212 attacks on schools and hospitals.

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