The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.
Children were disproportionately affected by the intensifying conflict in Afghanistan. The number of child casualties verified by the United Nations has risen by 14 per cent since 2014 and reached the highest number ever recorded. One in four civilian casualties in 2015 was a child.
The number of verified cases of recruitment and use of children more than doubled compared with 2014. A total of 116 cases (115 boys, 1 girl) were documented during the reporting period, of which 48 were verified. Thirteen verified recruitment cases were attributed to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces: five to the Afghan Local Police five to the Afghan National Police and three to the Afghan National Army. The majority of verified cases were attributed to the Taliban (20) and other armed groups (15). The Taliban continued to recruit children for combat and suicide attacks. There is continuing concern about allegations of cross-border recruitment of children and of use of religious schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan for child recruitment and military training by the Taliban and other armed groups (see S/2015/336, para. 21).
As at 31 December, the Ministry of Justice reported that 214 boys had been detained in juvenile rehabilitation centres on charges relating to national security, including association with armed groups. In addition, 166 detainees arrested as children were being held at the Parwan detention facility for security-related offences 53 of those were under 18 years of age. I am concerned about children being held in a high-security facility for adults for extended periods without due process, and about reports of the consistent use of solitary confinement for children.
The United Nations verified 1,306 incidents resulting in 2,829 child casualties (733 killed, 2,096 injured) — an average of 53 children were killed or injured every week. Of the casualties, 42 per cent (339 killed, 850 injured) were attributed to armed groups, including the Taliban, groups affiliated with ISIL and Hezb-i-Islami, and 23 per cent (177 killed, 471 injured) to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and pro-Government militias. A total of 55 child casualties were attributed to international forces, the majority of which were caused by air strikes (21 killed, 20 injured), and cross-border shelling (3 killed, 9 injured). A third of child casualties (937) could not be attributed to a specific party. The leading causes of child casualties remained ground engagements (55 per cent), improvised explosive device attacks (19 per cent) and explosive remnants of war (13 per cent). The number of casualties relating to air strikes by Afghan and international forces almost doubled in 2015.
The United Nations received 11 reports of sexual violence, affecting nine boys and six girls. One incident involving a boy recruited and sexually abused by the Taliban in the northern region was verified. Concerns remain regarding the cultural practice of bachah-bazi (“dancing boys”), which involves the sexual exploitation of boys by men in power, including Afghan National Defence and Security Forces commanders.
Attacks on schools and protected personnel continued to be verified, including the killing, injury and abduction of education personnel. Of 132 verified incidents, 82 were attributed to the Taliban, 13 to ISIL-affiliated groups, 11 to undetermined armed groups, 1 to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and 23 to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and pro-Government militias 2 incidents could not be attributed to any party. The emergence of ISIL-affiliated groups in the east had an impact on access to education and led to the closure of 68 schools, affecting more than 48,751 children in Nangarhar Province.
Verified attacks on hospitals and health personnel (125) significantly increased compared with 2014. In the attacks, at least 63 health-care personnel, including vaccinators, were killed or injured, 66 abducted and 64 intimidated and assaulted. A total of 75 incidents were attributed to the Taliban 14 to ISIL-affiliated groups 1 to TTP 19 to undetermined armed groups 14 to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and pro-Government militias and 1 to international forces. For example, 49 medical staff were killed or injured in an air strike by international forces on the Médecins sans frontières hospital in Kunduz on 3 October.
In a positive development, in May, the Government signed the Safe Schools Declaration, aimed at protecting education facilities from military use during conflict. The use of schools by parties to the conflict continued, however, with 24 cases attributed to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and 11 to armed groups (Taliban (4), ISIL-affiliated group (7)). The United Nations also verified 10 incidents of military use of hospitals.
The verified number of children abducted more than tripled compared with 2014. A total of 92 children (74 boys, 4 girls and 14 of unknown sex) were abducted in 23 incidents, including incidents linked to the killing of seven children and sexual violence against a child. The abductions of 69 children were attributed to the Taliban (two killed), 3 to ISIL-affiliated groups (all killed) and 12 to undetermined armed groups. An incident involving eight children remains unattributed.
The United Nations received reports of 93 incidents of denial of humanitarian access (75 verified). Humanitarian personnel were abducted (100), killed (9) and threatened and intimidated (14 incidents), while five humanitarian convoys were attacked. Of the verified incidents, 76 (78 per cent) were attributed to armed groups, including the Taliban, and 10 to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and pro-Government militias, while 7 cases could not be attributed.
The United Nations welcomes the measures taken by the Government in meeting its obligations under the action plan, including criminalizing underage recruitment by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, the endorsement of national age assessment guidelines and the inauguration of three new child protection units within Afghan National Police recruitment centres, bringing the total to seven. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice granted the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan unimpeded access to all juvenile rehabilitation centres.
In February 2016, my Special Representative visited Afghanistan. She commended the strong commitment of the Government and the important progress made to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, and discussed gaps and challenges to be addressed. Critical elements are the nationwide expansion of child protection units in Afghan National Police recruitment centres, the implementation of national age assessment guidelines in all Afghan National Defence and Security Forces recruitment and a general prohibition on child recruitment and use in the Child Law. I am concerned, however, about the lack of oversight mechanisms for Afghan Local Police recruitment, especially in the light of allegations of informal recruitment of children. Reintegration programmes and alternatives for children are also important, given that poverty is a driver of recruitment. Regarding the deprivation of liberty of children on charges relating to national security, I urge the Government to consider alternatives to detention and ensure that children are always treated in accordance with their best interests and juvenile justice standards.
Further analysis of the six grave violations is provided in my country report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, issued on 15 May 2015 (S/2015/336). The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its conclusions on Afghanistan in February 2016, and I urge all parties to take action to address the recommendations set out therein.
Parties in Afghanistan
- Afghan National Police, including the Afghan Local Police.a This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).
- Haqqani Network a,b
- Hezb-i-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar a,b
- Taliban forces, including the Tora Bora Front, Jama’at al-Da’wa ila al-Qur’an wal-Sunna and the Latif Mansur Network a,b,d,e
* The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.
(a) Parties that recruit and use children.
(b) Parties that kill and maim children.
(c)Parties that commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children.
(d)Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.
(e) Parties that abduct children.