Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Violation of Children’s Humanitarian Rights

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Violation of Children’s Humanitarian Rights

Children bear the brunt of war and militancy in the region. The spate of war and violence in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar left children at the mercy of great sufferings. Their rights and dignity are trampled upon without a tinge of mercy. They are traumatized by the adverse effect of deadly wars for being harassed by armed groups or having their parents killed before their eyes.
According to the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) armed groups must not violate the rights of non-combatants, mainly women and children, the soldiers who laid down their arms, and the wounded in action. Warring sides are not allowed to use destructive weapons to the extent that cause unnecessary sufferings for civilians. Violating the rights of non-combatants is considered war crime and perpetrators should be brought to justice.
Nonetheless, warring sides turn blind eyes to this issue and the graph of civilian fatalities has increased tremendously. Moreover, there are reports about women who lost their children and vice versa. A number of Rohingya women fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh as a result of the most recent round of brutal repression by the Myanmar army – described as ethnic cleansing by the UN – lost their children. This will be extremely tragic for mothers to lose their children and also for children to lose their mothers.
The graph of children’s casualties in Yemen is shocking. On the Thursday, the alliance, assembled by Saudi Arabia in 2015, was added to the UN chief’s annual list of shame for killing and maiming 683 children and for 38 verified attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016. The blacklist also named the Houthi rebel group – also shamed last year – as being responsible for the killing or maiming of 414 children. In total, the document highlights the killing of 502 Yemeni children. It also says that 838 children were wounded in 2016.
Additionally, more than 17 million people in Yemen are facing food shortages; the UN warns that the country is on the brink of famine with 80 percent of the country’s children in desperate need of aid.
Caroline Anning, senior advocacy adviser on Yemen for the UK-based Save the Children NGO is cited as saying, “All sides in Yemen have shown a complete disrespect for the protection of children. We’ve seen a situation in which the world’s worst humanitarian crisis has been created as a direct result of the war – the cholera epidemic, the hunger crisis; it’s all a result of the conduct of the warring parties.”
According to the United Nations’ children’s agency, Syria’s conflict took a horrible toll on children last year, with the civil war blamed for killing at least 652 children — 255 of whom were either in or near a school.
Aside from the child fatalities, UNICEF also recorded that more than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict – double the number recruited in 2015.
Hence, reports about children’s casualties reflect their vulnerability in war-torn countries. Afghanistan is also among the countries where children sustain heavy casualties and severe sufferings as a result of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. Terrorist groups also recruit children to fight against the government. Children easily fall for the bogus claim of terrorists, coerced into joining them, or simply succumb to their calls so as to alleviate their hunger and financial constraints. Similarly, radical mindset is implanted in the minds of a number of children who attend seminaries in tribal belts to learn religious knowledge. They are easily trapped into joining the militants.
The graph of children’s fatalities is really shocking. Warring parties and states will have to observe IHL and protect the rights of children – who have nothing to do with war, ideology or schools of thought. Recruiting and brainwashing children are very cruel of the militant fighters that exploit children as object. Targeting children or carrying out indiscriminate attacks are not only against the international law but also against the code of ethics and religious tenets. The militants who claim to practice upon religious tenets will realize, if they have only rudimentary knowledge about religion, that recruiting children is banned according to religion.  
The states who are embroiled in war must protect the children’s rights to life, education, and security. Besides preventing from targeting children, the states will have to safeguard schools so that children could learn knowledge. Protecting the rights of non-combatants need to be prioritized by all countries during the war period.

It is hoped that children will be able to enjoy their rights and not fall the casualties of militancy, war or the militants’ ideology. The international community also has to bring the perpetrators into justice and stop this war crime. Otherwise, the cruelty against children will turn into daily practice and their vulnerability will be exploited more.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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