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UN Secretary-General's Report on Children in Armed Conflict (2023)

[15 June 2024] – On 13 June 2024, the UN released the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict (“Annual Report”). The Annual Report includes trends regarding the impact of armed conflict on children in 2023.[i] For the first time in the Annual Report’s history, the Israeli army has been added to a list of state actors that commit grave violations affecting children in situations of armed conflict. The Israeli army now joins a list that includes the armed forces of: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic. 

The Annual Report notes that: “In 2023, violence against children in armed conflict reached extreme levels, with a shocking 21 percent increase in grave violations. Children bore the brunt of multiplying and escalating crisis that were marked by a complete disregard for child rights, notably the inherent right to life. The number of instances of killing and maiming increased by a staggering 35 percent.”
For well over a decade, the Annual Report has reviewed the treatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention and has found widespread abuse and the systematic denial of fair trial rights. In 2010, the Annual Report noted that: “the high number of instances of such treatment reported and documented suggests that ill treatment of children is common in the Israeli military justice system.” The following year, the Secretary General noted that in 100 percent of cases documented by the UN that year (116 cases) there was evidence of cruel and degrading treatment. The types of treatment reported by the Secretary General over the years includes: excessive use of hand ties and blindfolds; beatings; solitary confinement; limited access to lawyers; administrative detention; forced confession; and recruitment as informants. 
This year the Annual Report notes that: “The UN verified the detention of 906 Palestinian children for alleged security offences” and “received the testimonies of 84 children who reported ill treatment by Israeli forces in detention.” Further, the UN “received reports of the detention of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip, compounded by multiple forms of sexual violence.”
In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Secretary General referred to data published by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and noted that Israeli authorities were transferring Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank to prisons inside Israel in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to this official Israeli governmental source, these transfers have continued unabated up until, and including 2023, affecting approximately 400-600 children each year. It should be noted that in 2023 arrest warrants were issued by the International Criminal Court for Russians involved in the transfer of children from occupied Ukraine following a 12-month investigation. 

[i] Conflicts on the agenda of the Security Council and covered by the report include: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Israel and the State of Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen.