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UN rules not to blacklist Israel over abuse of children's rights

UN head Ban Ki-Moon has decided not to add Israel to a blacklist of children's rights violators that include al-Qaeda and the Taliban
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism (AFP)

United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday decided to keep Israel off a blacklist of states and groups that violate the rights of children in war.

The decision contradicts advice from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Algerian Leila Zerrougui, who had recommended Israel be categorised as a systemic violator of children’s’ rights.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported that UN chief Ban had ruled against adding Israel to the list because of “intense pressure” from Tel Aviv and Washington.

Prior to the announcement on Monday a lawyer specialising in Israel’s treatment of children told Middle East Eye that the pressure on Ban to keep Israel off the list would be significant and difficult to discard.

“The US pays a large slice of the UN’s budget, so UN officials cannot afford to ignore the administration’s wishes,” said Gerard Horton. “If UN officials want to help children in Africa and Iraq, they have to ask themselves whether it is worth risking it all for a fight over Israel.”

Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor welcomed the decision, saying Ban "was right not to submit to the dictates of the terrorist organizations and the Arab states, in his decision not to include Israel in this shameful list, together with organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban."

The "shame list" has 51 groups including Boko Haram and Islamic State as well as the armed forces from eight countries such as Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Israel was being considered as an addition to the list after reports by UN agencies in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories documented that hundreds of children were killed in the Israeli army’s deadly assault on the Gaza Strip last summer. The reports did not conclude whether Israel should be considered a serious violator of children’s rights and left the final decision on the matter to Secretary-General Ban.

Despite Ban deciding against adding Israel to the list, he did strongly criticise Tel Aviv in a report on the matter seen by Haaretz.

“I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals,” Ban said in the report.

“An essential measure in this regard is ensuring accountability for perpetrators of alleged violations. I further urge Israel to engage in a dialogue with my special representative and the United Nations to ensure that there is no recurrence in grave violations against children.”

The 50-day conflict in Gaza last year killed 539 children and injured 2,956, most of whom are Palestinians now struggling with trauma and life-long disabilities, according to the UN children's agency, UNICEF.