Killing and maiming children during conflict is one of the six grave violations identified and condemned by the UN Security Council . The six grave violations form the basis of the Council’s architecture to monitor, report and respond to abuses suffered by children in times of war. Ending and preventing these violations is also the focus of the Special Representative’s work and advocacy.
The killing and maiming of children is a trigger to list parties to armed conflict in the annexes of the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
Parties to conflict must protect children from being killed, maimed or injured.
The right of civilians not to be arbitrarily deprived of life and the prohibitions against killing or maiming civilians are principles firmly enshrined in international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international jurisprudence. The prohibition of violence to civilians, including children, in particular murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture is a principle of customary international law, with universal applicability in all situations of armed conflict.
The humanitarian principles of distinction and proportionality require fighters to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and they prohibit civilian damage beyond the scope of military advantage. However, because of the changing nature of conflict, this principle is eroding among armed forces and groups and children are often killed and injured in the course of military operations, including in cross-fire, aerial bombardment and shelling. Although thousands of children are injured and killed during military operations, many are also victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Another worrisome trend is the rise in suicide attacks, and the use of children to carry them out.
A grave violation and trigger for listing on the children and armed conflict agenda
With Security Council resolution 1882 (2009), the Council defined patterns of killing and maiming of children in contravention of international law as a trigger for inclusion in the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
“This is a major step forward in the fight against impunity for crimes against children and a recognition of the reality of conflict today, where girls and boys are increasingly targeted and victimized, killed and raped, as well as recruited into armed groups,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative at the time, declared in a press statement issued when resolution 1882 was adopted.