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Concerned by child casualties in J-K, call upon govt to take preventive measures: UN Chief

The Secretary-General’s report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ said that the UN had verified over 25,000 grave violations against children globally from January to December 2019.

SNS | New Delhi |

UN  Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his concern over child casualties conflict regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and urged the government to take preventive measures to protect the children.

The Secretary General also took note of the Naxalite insurgency and said that efforts by the Indian government have resulted in a decline in the recruitment, killing and maiming of children.

The Secretary-General’s report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ said that the UN had verified over 25,000 grave violations against children globally from January to December 2019, stressing that the tragedy children face continued unabated throughout the year.

On India, the report said that the United Nations “verified” the killing of eight children and maiming of seven (13 boys, 2 girls), between the ages of 1 and 17, “by or during joint operations of the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indian Army (Rashtriya Rifles) and the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, unidentified armed elements, or during shelling across the Line of Control.”

The UN also verified attacks on nine schools in Jammu and Kashmir by “unidentified elements”, the report said.

Guterres noted in the report that in Jharkhand, approximately 10 children were reportedly rescued by Indian police from Naxalite insurgency groups, who allegedly abducted them or used them in support or combat capacities.

“I remain concerned by child casualties in Jammu and Kashmir and call upon the Government to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against children.

“I am concerned by the detention of children, including their arrest during night raids, internment at army camps, torture in detention and detention without charge or due process, and urge the Government to immediately end this practice. I note that the Government conducted age verification for some detainees and urge for its systematisation,” he said.

The UN chief noted the “decline, as a result of government efforts,” in the number of reports of child recruitment and of the killing and maiming of children relating to the Naxalite insurgency.

However, children’s access to education and health services continues to be of concern owing to this insurgency, in particular in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, he said.

“I am concerned by attacks on schools, yet I am encouraged that the Government has commenced legal proceedings against the perpetrators,” he said.

Guterres reiterated his encouragement to the Indian government to put in place national preventive and accountability measures for all grave violations, as soon as possible.

India has expressed strong disappointment over the UN chief’s previous report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ in 2019, saying such an attempt to “expand mandate in a selective manner” to certain situations only politicises the agenda.

Launching the new report on Monday, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba said that boys and girls used and abused in armed conflict in the world have had their childhoods replaced by “pain, brutality and fear while the world watches.”

The report said that the most shocking increase of more than 400 per cent is seen in the denial of humanitarian access to children, with 4,400 verified incidents. The report highlights violence against humanitarian workers and impediments to their work, the looting of supplies and restrictions of movement, among the many disruptions in the provision of basic assistance to children.

Yemen, Mali, the Central African Republic (CAR), Israel and the State of Palestine and Syria are the most concerning situations, it said.

Overall, millions of children were deprived of education and health care as a direct result of attacks, misuses, or because of school closures and/or due to military use, the report said.

Boys and girls also continued to endure sexual violence with 735 cases verified, however, the violation is vastly underreported, it said.

The largest verified numbers correspond to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and the Central African Republic. Factors such as impunity for perpetrators and lack of access to justice, fear of stigma, and lack of services for survivors, are largely the cause of under-reporting, it said.

Human rights groups strongly criticised Guterres for removing the Saudi-led coalition, which was responsible for 222 child casualties and 4 attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen in 2019, from his list of parties responsible for grave violations against children.

He also “ignored violations by other powerful countries”, including Russia, the US, and Israel, by omitting them from his list, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“The secretary-general has brought shame on the UN by removing the Saudi-led coalition from his ‘list of shame’ even as it continues to kill and injure children in Yemen,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “He has repeatedly and inexcusably left powerful countries off his list despite overwhelming UN evidence of grave violations against children,” Becker said.