UN chief concerned by child casualties in Kashmir, AfPak region

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over the child casualties in Kashmir but noted a decline in the recruitment of children by Naxalites in Jharkhand due to the government's efforts in his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict

Arul Louis Jun 16, 2020
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over the child casualties in Kashmir but noted a decline in the recruitment of children by Naxalites in Jharkhand due to the government's efforts in his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict. The report released on Monday said that the UN has verified the killing of eight children in Kashmir and the maiming of seven by security forces, the Lakshar-e-Tayyba (L-e-T) and shelling across the Line of Control with Pakistan. 

Ten children were killed or injured in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir)  "during armed clashes or by shelling or targeted fire across the line of control," according to the report. Two schools there were "reportedly attacked across the line of control," it added.  

The report did not give details beyond attributing ten incidents to the Indian security forces, one to the LeT and another to "unidentified armed elements" -- usually a euphemism for terrorists.  It said three incidents happened during cross-border shelling.

Guterres said in the report that the casualties in Kashmir occurred mainly due to "torture in detention, shootings, including from pellet guns, and cross-border shelling." The report said that attacks on nine schools by "unidentified elements" had been verified. 

Guterres said that he was concerned about the detention of 68 children between the ages of nine and 17 on national security-related charges with one of them held for allegedly associating with "armed groups."

He asked the government to take preventive measures to protect children and to ban the use of pellet guns against them.
He said that he was concerned about the arrest of children at night, and their internment in army camps,"torture in detention" and detention without due process and urged the government to end these practices.

His report said that "in Jharkhand state, approximately 10 children were reportedly rescued by Indian police from Naxalite insurgency groups, who allegedly abducted them or used them in support or combat capacities."
"I note the decline, as a result of government efforts, in the number of reports of child recruitment and of the killing and maiming of children relating to the Naxalite insurgency," Guterres added.  

Around the world, Guterres's report said the UN verified over 25,000 grave violations against children and there was a 400 percent increase in "the denial of humanitarian access to children with 4,400 verified incidents."

His Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), Virginia Gamba, who said, “The childhood of these boys and girls has been replaced by pain, brutality and fear while the world watches. Parties to conflict neglect to protect children in the conduct of hostilities and deny them the vital aid they desperately need."

In his report Guterres said that 39 child casualties in Afghanistan happened due to "cross-border engagements at the border with Pakistan" and one school was attacked during cross-border shelling from Pakistan territory. He said that Afghanistan was the deadliest conflict zone for children with 3,410 verified incidents -- an increase of 67 percent -- affecting 3,245 children.

Guterres called on the Pakistan government to protect children, especially around the line of control, and health workers in the campaign against polio, which recorded 660 attacks.

There were ten other child casualties in Pakistan in occupied Kashmir, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for which "responsibility could not be attributed."

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