Adding attacks on schools, hospitals to shame list signals "impunity intolerable": UNICEF

09:21, July 13, 2011      

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By adding attacks on schools and hospitals to the list of shame of parties to conflict who violate children, it signals to perpetrators that "impunity is intolerable" as the grave violations are "alarmingly common," the head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday.

"These horrific acts are not only a violation of international and humanitarian law, they are a violation of our common humanity, " Anthony Lake, executive director for UNICEF, told the UN Security Council in an open debate on children and armed conflict.

Lake's statement came after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution, which expanded the criteria for listing parties to conflict in the secretary-general's annual report. The criteria will now include parties who attack schools and hospitals.

"And today, the Council has affirmed that attacks on schools and hospitals are attacks on children -- and must be treated as such, for these grave violations are alarmingly common," he said.

By the Council's actions, Lake said he hopes that "this will spur governments and other groups to do more to prevent attacks on schools and hospitals -- defining concrete plans to end those violations."

"And when they will not, creating clearer links to sanctions committees will strengthen this Council's ability to take action, for impunity is as intolerable in a civilized society as justice is indispensable," Lake said.

He added that the resolution may lead to "necessary discussion" on the military use of schools and hospitals, encouraging more governments to follow the lead of Nepal and the Philippines in protecting schools as zones of peace.

With human costs of these attacks "beyond statistical calculation," Lake said costs to society are also staggering with more than 40 percent of all children out of school living in conflict areas and in the world's poorest places.

"We must not fail these children," Lake said. "It is up to all of us to take action to protect the schools where they learn and the hospitals where they heal -- for to do so is to protect their individual futures, and the future of their societies."

Prior to the resolution, the secretary-general's annual list included parties who recruit or use children, kill or maim children, or commit sexual violence.

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