U.N. Leaves Israel Off ‘List of Shame’

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Despite growing political pressure, both Israel and Hamas avoided the United Nations’ annual report on Children and Armed Conflict. The report lists countries with a record of children’s rights violations.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s office for Children and Armed Conflict reviews ongoing conflicts to determine whether children’s rights violations occurred. In addition to a summary of active conflicts, the report also includes two annexes, or the so-called “list of shame.” The U.N. calls upon all listed parties to end and take measures to prevent future crimes against children in order to be taken off the list. The report focuses on violations of six specific children’s rights, including the recruitment of children as soldiers, the killing and maiming of children, sexual violence against children, attacks on schools and hospitals, abduction of children, and the denial of humanitarian access.

Although Hamas and Israel are not listed in the annexes of the most recent report, it does designate four pages to discussing the 2014 Gaza conflict. A total of 561 children in Israel and Palestine were killed, 557 of which were Palestinian. U.N. estimates also indicate that at least 1,000 of the 2,955 Palestinian children who were injured will be permanently disabled. Additionally, at least 262 schools and 274 kindergartens in Gaza were affected last summer due to Israeli airstrikes. The death toll in the Gaza conflict even surpassed the number of minors confirmed killed in Syria last year. Palestine had the third highest number of child deaths among all conflicts in 2014, and the highest number of damaged or destroyed schools.

Although the number of recorded abuses against children rose significantly, the Secretary-General decided to let Israel and Hamas off the hook. The list remains unchanged from the previous year despite what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “grave violations suffered by children as a result of Israeli military operations in 2014.”

Unnamed U.N. officials told the Associated Press that initial recommendations for the list, which circulated internally within the United Nations, included both Hamas and Israel. But due to disagreements among people on the ground, neither group was included in the final version of the report.

Placing Israel on the annual report could have a meaningful effect on the country. Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen have all signed action plans to prevent future violations. According to the Office of Children and Armed Conflict, these actions plans “outline concrete, time bound steps that lead to compliance with international law.” As of this year, 23 parties have signed action plans–11 governments and 12 non-state groups–nine of which have fully complied with their action plans and are no longer on the list.

Human Rights Watch has been one of the strongest proponents of including Israel and Hamas in the report’s annexes. Prior to the report’s release, Philippe Bolopion, the organization’s Crisis Advocacy Director, sent a letter to Ki-Moon urging him to include Israel, Hamas, and several other armed groups engaged in conflicts. Bolopion reinforced that point last month saying,

Applying consistent standards would add some long-time abusive parties to the list, including Israel and Hamas, for their wartime conduct harming children… Failure to include countries and groups that are known offenders will harm a report that’s been a powerful tool to protect children in war.

Since its creation in 2005, the Office for Children and Armed Conflict has monitored both Israel and Palestine. While previous reports document violations by these groups, they have both consistently avoided the report’s annexes. In his letter, Bolopion emphasizes, “other parties to armed conflict have been listed in your annexes in the past for less serious violations.”

The U.N. missed an important opportunity when it excluded both groups from the list. In the event of future conflicts, there are few measures in place to protect the lives and rights of children who are caught in the middle of the conflict. While the violence between Israel and Hamas might seem impossible to end, further international scrutiny may be help ensure that children’s most basic human rights are preserved in the future.

Alissa Gutierrez
Alissa is a member of the Catholic University Class of 2018 and was Law Street Media Fellow for the Summer of 2015. Contact Alissa at



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