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UN chief concerned over increase in military recruitment and death of children

[JURIST] In his report [report, PDF] issued Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] expressed shock at the increasing number of children recruited and killed in armed conflicts in several countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran and South Sudan. Ban asked that those countries contributing to the 2,829 child casualties in armed conflicts during 2015 take steps to end the recruitment, killing, kidnapping, and sexual abuse of youth in armed conflicts. He also stated that those who do choose to continue these violations, "will find themselves under scrutiny by the United Nations." Most notably among those groups listed in Ban's black-list are the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as SPLA, South Sudan's government forces, and the Civilian Join Task Force in Nigeria. These groups are a few of the nine governments and fifty-one armed groups that were noted recruiting and killing children in armed conflicts. A key goal of Ban's was to encourage countries responding to armed groups with children to implement mitigation tactics so as to protect children. These measures would include requiring countries to not use weapons with wide-reaching damage in areas that are highly populated.

Children have been at-risk groups in various conflicts worldwide. In March, the Myanmar government released 46 underage and child recruits from the military [JURIST report] as part of a UN joint action plan made in 2012. In February UN envoy Leila Zerrougui reported [JURIST report] that children worldwide continued to face human rights violations in 2015, particularly in Middle Eastern and African countries. Also in February, Human Rights Watch declared [JURIST report] that hostiles in eastern Ukraine had damaged or destroyed hundreds of schools, many of which were being used for military purposes. Furthermore, UN human rights experts in Nigeria urged [JURIST report] the government to guarantee the safety of areas liberated from Boko Haram. Also earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, expressed [JURIST report] "utmost alarm" at the worsening situation in Syria and said that parties were "constantly sinking to new depths" attacking women, children, the sick and the elderly. In August, the UN reported [JURIST report] that the number of women and children being hurt or killed in Afghanistan's war against the Taliban have risen by 23 and 13 percent, respectively.

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