4 June – Friday
It is a sad reality that in situations where armed conflict breaks out, it is the most vulnerable members of societies – namely children, who are most affected by the consequences of war. The six most common violations are recruitment and use of children in war, killing, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.
On the 19th of August 1982, at its emergency special session on the question of Palestine, the General Assembly, “appalled at the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel’s acts of aggression”, decided to commemorate 4 June of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. This day is commemorated each year to remind the world of its commitment to protect the rights of children. Leading international organisations went so far as to compile the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history, all in the name of protecting, safeguarding, uplifting, securing and fortifying the rights of the world`s precious jewels – the children.
Following on the ground-breaking Graça Machel report, which drew global attention to the devastating impact of armed conflict on children, in 1997 The General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/77 on the Rights of the Child. It was a landmark development in efforts to improve the protection of children in conflict situations.
One line that particularly stood out in this report was,
“Millions of children are caught up in conflicts in which they are not merely bystanders, but targets…..”
This signalled the start of a new consensus among Member States, on the need for dedicated attention, advocacy and coordinated effort, by the international community, to address the vulnerabilities and violations faced by children in conflict-related situations.
In recent years, the number of violations perpetrated against children have, in many conflict zones, increased manifold. More, certainly needs to be done to protect the 250 million children living in countries and areas affected by conflict. More must be done to protect children from targeting by violent so-called defence forces, to promote international humanitarian and human rights law, and to ensure accountability for violations of the rights of children.
These treaties have been enacted and these days have been commemorated but what difference does this make to the Palestinian child?
The State of Israel is responsible for enforcing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Israel as well as in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In fact, according to the International Court of Justice it is – as the occupying power – responsible for the human rights situation in Palestine as well. However, the Israeli state refuses to recognize this obligation. Consequentially, numerous child rights violations have taken place and remain unpunished.
In the armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, many fatalities have been reported among Palestinian children, innocent victims often killed by mistake but sometimes callously shot by Israeli soldiers for no reason.
In the Gaza Strip, various Israeli confrontations and raids have resulted in the deaths of numerous children. The attacks often target public places that have turned into refuges for civilians, like schools, hospitals, etc. In addition to the lost lives, tens of thousands of children are injured and some are left disabled for life.
Our theme for this week will therefore focus on the innocent children being the victims of not only aggression, but even oppression, and unfortunately there is no child that fits this profile better than the Palestinian child.