UNITED NATIONS, June 25 (IPS) – When the UN’s annual report on children and armed conflict was released last week, it was expected to ‘name and shame’ some of the worst human rights violators around the world, especially child molesters.
But these offenders have been protected – and never stigmatized – despite the hundreds of children killed by the belligerents in the ongoing conflicts, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Myanmar, involving the United States, Russia and China in as arms suppliers, triggering criticism from observers of the UN and humanity. rights organizations.
Jo Becker, director of children’s rights advocacy at Human Rights Watch, told IPS: “We continue to be disappointed that the Secretary-General (SG) is not using the ‘shame list’ to keep all of the parties responsible for their grave violations against children. “.
The message he sends to the Saudi-led coalition regarding their operations in Yemen is that “as long as they kill and maim fewer children than the year before, they can stay off the list.”
“We also saw in the case of Myanmar how disastrous it was to remove the Tatmadaw (the country’s armed forces) from the list while they were recruiting and still using children; the number tripled the following year ”.
The SG shouldn’t make rating decisions based on his hopes for future improvement, but based on the facts on the ground, Becker said.
Its repeated failure to base its list on the UN’s own evidence betrays children and fuels impunity. “Now that his second term as Secretary-General is secured, he should abandon this approach and ensure that his list reflects the facts. And the UN Security Council should insist that it draw up a list of all offenders, without exception, ”Becker said. The oil-blessed Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition in the military conflict in Yemen, is a longtime political and military ally of the United States. – which, along with the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France, is armed with veto rights in the Security Council.
Russia is providing political and military support to war-ravaged Syria while China, one of Myanmar’s largest arms suppliers, has undermined Security Council attempts to impose an arms embargo in this conflict-ridden country.
Ian Williams, President of the New York-based Foreign Press Association (FPA) and author of ‘UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War’, told IPS Guterres has adopted a human rights profile low enough to be underground.
History suggests that one of the few weapons open to the SG and the UN collectively is to “name and humiliate,” he said, noting that it is also true that many member states – like the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which refuses to support the Uyghurs, are also unscrupulous in the face of power – but an ethical and outspoken SG, as a tribune of the United Nations Charter, could turn the tide .
“If Guterres cares more about posterity than his pension – and if he wants to write the history books rather than the footnotes – he should take inspiration from Dag Hammarskjold, speak the truth to power. And avoid chartered planes, ”said Williams, former president of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA).
Various models of SG-ship have been tried, he pointed out, but none of them are entirely successful.
“Kofi Annan tried the nice approach. Ban Ki-moon has tried to be kind in public, firm in meetings with heads of state, and privately angry at their gratuitous slurs, ”Williams said.
Perhaps the most powerful comments are those of Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW): “Guterres’ first tenure was defined by public silence regarding human rights violations committed by China, Russia and the United States and their allies, ”he said. said, referring to the three permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power.
“With his re-election behind him, Guterres should use the next five years to become a strong advocate for rights. His recent resolve to speak out against abuses in Myanmar and Belarus should extend to all governments deserving of condemnation, including those that are powerful and protected.
Since taking office in January 2017, Guterres has rarely criticized or called for the accountability of certain governments or their leaders, Roth said.
Guterres “has taken a non-confrontational approach to former US President Donald Trump’s efforts to marginalize human rights by undermining multilateral organizations like the UN and adopting authoritarian leaders.”
It has taken a similar approach to the crimes against humanity committed in Xinjiang by the Chinese government, now the second largest financial contributor to the UN, after the United States, and to war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia. in Yemen, Roth complained.
HRW also said Guterres was reluctant to criticize abuses by the Russian government, which has frequently used its veto in the Security Council to block human rights resolutions on Syria and elsewhere. Guterres should also exercise stronger leadership against the global decline in women’s rights, he added.
According to Watch List on Children and Armed Conflict, the Secretary-General last year removed the Saudi-UAE-led coalition from his annual list of perpetrators of child rights violations, despite the conclusion of the UN claims she was responsible for the murder and mutilation of 222 children in Yemen in 2019.
At the time, he promised to re-register the coalition if it failed to sustainably reduce violations.
As the latest UN report shows, the Secretary-General’s decision to remove the Saudi-UAE-led coalition from its shameful list last year sent a clear message that parties can get away with it. by killing children, ”said Adrianne Lapar, Watchlist director of Children and Armed Conflict.
“If the Secretary-General does not immediately reverse his decision and put the coalition back on his list, he is seriously undermining international efforts to protect children in war and encouraging belligerents to be more violent towards children. ”
Meanwhile, Save the Children, a leading humanitarian organization for children, has pointed out that 194 Yemeni children were killed and maimed in 2020, but the UN report on children and armed conflict fails to call again. no accounts to authors.
But despite the killings in Yemen in 2020, according to UN-verified data, the Saudi-UAE-led coalition has been given the green light to continue destroying the lives of children in Yemen, the organization said. .
“In a disheartening move, UN Secretary-General António Guterres again failed to include the coalition in this year’s ‘shame list’.
It was taken off the list last year, with the Secretary-General’s pledge to put them back on the list unless there is a “significant and sustained decrease in killings and mutilations.” By not putting the coalition back on the list, Guterres is sending the message that reducing the number of child victims to around two hundred is “good enough” progress, Save the Children said.
Matthew Wells, deputy director of themes for Amnesty International’s crisis response program, said Guterres, “who has just been given a new five-year term; must become bolder and more courageous in prioritizing human rights and denouncing perpetrators, including children and armed conflict.
Together with the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, he should publicly commit to applying the same standard regardless of the perpetrator or the context – producing a comprehensive list based on objective evidence and criteria, which it hasn’t done this year yet.
Next year, it will have to follow the criteria set out in 2010; the Saudi-led coalition and the IDF, among others, will again prove to be a key test.
For their part, UN member states must demand a credible list. Why are teams in the field putting themselves at risk to document violations that are ignored ?, asked Wells.
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