UN Secretary General extensively reduces focus on children in military detention
[29 June 2018] – On 27 June 2018, the UN released the Annual Report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) in New York. The report highlights global trends regarding the impact of armed conflict on children in 15 locations currently on the agenda of the Security Council, including Israel and Palestine.
The report notes that the “United Nations obtained affidavits from 162 Palestinian boys between the ages of 12 and 17 who had been detained by Israeli forces, in which they stated that they had been subjected to ill-treatment and breaches of due process. The United Nations also documented five cases of children held in administrative detention in 2017.”
This year the report devoted 129 words to the issue of Palestinian child detainees compared to 474 words in the Annual Report
in 2013. This represents a 73 percent reduction in five years in circumstances where the UN has collected 51 percent more evidence than five years ago. (107 affidavits in 2013 compared with 162 affidavits in 2017).
In 2013 the Secretary General’s report found that in all 107 documented cases there was evidence of the children having been subjected to “cruel and degrading ill-treatment”. The report highlighted issues such as: night arrests; summonses in lieu of night arrests; painful restraints; blindfolds; physical and verbal abuse; threats of violence; strip-searches; solitary confinement; differences in the laws applied to Israeli and Palestinian children in the West Bank; and the unlawful transfer of Palestinian children out of the West Bank to prisons located inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In 2018, the Secretary General’s report has omitted all details of alleged ill-treatment referred to above and has also dropped the legally significant words “cruel and degrading” from “ill-treatment”. This is in circumstances where there is evidence
that many of these violations have actually increased during the intervening five years. Further, this year's report has dropped all reference to the transfer of Palestinian children from the West Bank in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is also classified as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
This year’s Secretary General’s report reflects a worrying trend in which some UN institutions appear to be downplaying the significance of serious violations relating to children including those relating to war crimes in Israel/Palestine (See: UNICEF falls silent 5-years after the release of its child detention report
). No official explanation has yet been provided by the UN as to why, for example, the unlawful transfer of child prisoners has been dropped from the Secretary General’s report in circumstances where the supporting evidence is uncontested and comes from the Israeli Prison Service.