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Experts criticize UN for excluding Israel and others from blacklist on harming kids in war

UNITED NATIONS — A panel of child rights experts sharply criticizes the UN secretary-general’s decisions on a global blacklist of parties responsible for harming children during conflicts, saying government forces including from Israel, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia and the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen should not have been excluded.

The experts appointed to study the blacklist decisions by Watchlist on Children, an international advocacy group, say in a 37-page report that between 2010 and 2020 at least eight parties to conflicts were found responsible for killing and maiming more than 100 children in a single year but weren’t listed. Six of them were government forces, the panel says.

The report cites “numerous discrepancies and omissions in listing decisions, as well as unwarranted delisting decisions.”

Co-author Yanghee Lee, former chair of the committee that monitors implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, says: “We are calling on the secretary-general to urgently address these problems and commit to hold all countries and groups responsible for violations against children accountable without fear or favor.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stands by the conclusions and recommendations in the annual report. He says action plans by governments and armed groups to get off the blacklist have produced improvements and changed behavior in some areas.

The eight parties that the experts say should have been included on the blacklist included three in Afghanistan: the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces every year from 2014 to 2020, international forces supporting them in 2010, 2019 and 2020, and Afghan groups affiliated with the Islamic State extremist group in 2016.

The five others the experts say should have been blacklisted were Israeli forces in 2010-2012 and 2017-2020; the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen in 2020; Congo’s armed forces in 2018; Nigeria’s security forces in 2018; and Free Syrian Army affiliated groups in 2015.

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