UN to expose those who attack schools, hospitals


Countries and groups that attack schools and hospitals will be named and shamed by the United Nations and could be liable to sanctions under a resolution passed by the Security Council.

Perpetrators will be added to a list the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon publishes as an annex to an annual report on children and armed conflict. The list identifies those who kill, maim or rape children in armed conflicts, or recruit and use them as child soldiers.

The resolution, unanimously passed on Tuesday by the 15-member Security Council, asks Ban to also include in the report’s annexes those who engage in recurrent attacks on schools and hospitals, Reuters reports.
“Persistent perpetrators need to face credible consequences,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Council. “If they do not change their behaviour, they should face measures through sanctions regimes.”
“We do not want to see children being used in conflicts, we do not want them to be forced to fight, we do not want them to be injured … or killed,” Westerwelle said. Germany holds the rotating presidency of the Council this month.

Security Council sanctions typically include asset freezes and travel bans. The resolution adopted on Tuesday was did not specifically address what sanctions might be applied.

Ban’s latest report on children and armed conflict, published in April, listed the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army as committing all three offenses — recruiting, killing and raping children — in the Central African Republic.

Other parties it named as committing various offenses against children ranged from the Afghan National Police to al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq.
“Adding attacks on schools and hospitals as a trigger for listing parties … will heighten awareness of these grave violations,” said Anthony Lake, head of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.
“We hope that this will spur governments and other groups to do more to prevent attacks on schools and hospitals — defining concrete plans to end those violations.”

However, several member states voiced concern about the way the United Nations goes about tackling the problem.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said the world body should engage with governments of countries where there are problems with rebel groups rather than “keeping them on the sidelines.” Attempting to talk to such groups directly was “inadmissible and unacceptable,” she told the Council.
“It is entirely naive to think that the United Nations … can change the minds of terrorist organizations that for decades have struck fear in civilian populations,” she said.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), both rebel groups in Colombia, are listed in the latest report’s annex.

Russian envoy Alexander Pankin said Moscow was concerned at “unjustified mention” in the report of countries such as India, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines and Haiti.

While not in the annexed list, cases involving children in armed conflict in those countries are mentioned in Ban’s most recent report.
“Protecting children in armed conflict is a peace and security issue, and the international community will not tolerate grave violations of this principle,” Ban said in an address to the Council.