Atrocity Alert # 208: Children and Armed Conflict, Nigeria and Libya – Libya

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication of the World Center for the Responsibility to Protect that highlights situations in which people are at risk of or experience mass atrocities.


The UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict was released on Monday, June 15, documenting more than 24,000 “grave violations” against children. This included more than 10,000 children killed or maimed in 19 different conflict zones in 2019. The report also documents 735 cases of sexual violence against children, more than 7,000 cases of recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. and nearly 500 attacks on schools. .

The majority of these violations have been perpetrated in countries where mass atrocities are ongoing or have recently been perpetrated. Afghanistan remained the world’s deadliest conflict for children, with at least 874 dead. An unprecedented number of child victims (185 killed and 111 maimed) was also recorded in Mali, 90 percent of which occur in the Mopti region. Syria has seen more than 260 attacks on schools and hospitals, the largest in the world. Sexual violence against children was particularly prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the UN documented incidents affecting 249 girls. Half of these incidents were attributable to government forces.

Since the establishment of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) for Children and Armed Conflict 15 years ago, the Secretary-General’s annual report and its annex have been useful in deterring grave violations against children. It is therefore deeply disappointing that a number of offending parties have been excluded or deleted from this year’s appendices.

The Saudi-led “Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen” was taken off the “shame list” this year, despite being held responsible for 222 child victims. The appendices to the report also exclude Burmathe armed forces of (responsible for recruiting children), international forces led by the United States in Afghanistan (responsible for nearly 250 child victims) and Israelthe armed forces of (responsible for more than 1,500 children killed).

In response, Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, said: “It is shocking that the Secretary-General has failed to keep parties to conflicts around the world at the same standards and levels of scrutiny… showing that a once again the UN Secretary-General has put politics before children, letting the parties with powerful friends get away with destroying children’s lives with impunity.

All perpetrators of grave violations against children must be held to the same standard, whether they are state forces or non-state armed groups. The UN Security Council is due to hold a public debate on children and armed conflict on June 23. Board members should insist on a single, comprehensive list of authors that accurately reflects the data collected and verified by the MRM.

To better protect children in armed conflict, all UN member states should implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Paris Principles and the Vancouver Principles, and comply with to the Safe Schools Declaration.


There have been more than 17,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, where the federal government is fighting to curb the pandemic. Meanwhile, the armed extremist group Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), are exploiting the COVID-19 epidemic to expand their activities. The two armed groups have undermined the public health response by stepping up their attacks and are also spreading misinformation about the virus.

On June 9, suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked the village of Faduma Koloram in Borno state, killing at least 81 residents. During the attack, seven people were abducted and 1,200 head of cattle were stolen. The village was reportedly attacked because residents were accused of sharing information with Nigerian security forces.

On June 13, two attacks took place against Goni Usmanti and Monguno, a town where the UN and several international humanitarian organizations have bases. The attacks killed at least 20 soldiers and over 40 civilians. On Monday, June 15, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, “vehemently condemned” the violence and said he was “shocked by the intensity of this attack. It is the latest of too many clashes affecting civilians, humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide. ”

Although the Nigerian government has made significant progress against Boko Haram and ISWA since 2015, both groups have stepped up their attacks in recent months and at least 2.5 million people remain internally displaced in northeastern Nigeria. country. In April, the International Organization for Migration warned that a COVID-19 outbreak could have “devastating consequences” for northeast Nigeria, where more than a third of health facilities have been destroyed by the past attacks.

The Nigerian government should continue to support programs that strengthen local security, combat violent extremism, and strengthen the rule of law in areas where Boko Haram operates. The Nigerian government should also call for increased international assistance to protect vulnerable populations and defend workers and health facilities.


On June 11, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed its “horror” at the discovery of eight mass graves in Tarhuna, the former western stronghold of Khalifa Haftar, self-proclaimed Marshal of the Arab Armed Forces. Libyans (LAAF) and al-Kaniyat, an affiliated militia. Early reports indicate that while some of the victims were executed, others may have been buried alive. Charred bodies were also found in shipping containers elsewhere in the city. Investigations are ongoing, but officials from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said there were “dozens” of victims.

UN Secretary General António Guterres and UNSMIL have called for “full and transparent investigations” of mass graves, containers and other sites in accordance with international law. UNSMIL also welcomed the decision of the Minister of Justice of the GNA to create an investigation committee.

The mass graves were discovered following intense fighting that ended Haftar’s 14-month campaign to capture Tripoli and topple the GNA. Since June 5, more than 24,000 people have been displaced. Although Haftar’s forces retreat, fighting continues.

Armed groups in Libya have violated international humanitarian and human rights law since the start of the last conflict in 2014. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a LAAF commander, for war crimes allegedly committed between June 2016 and January 2018.

Various foreign powers, including permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), have provided arms and support to parties to the conflict, including Haftar’s LAAF, despite a UN-mandated arms embargo . Sarah Ewing, communications and digital media manager at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said: “These mass graves are just the latest in a long line of atrocities suffered by the Libyan people. The international community must ensure that impunity ends now and that the perpetrators of these heinous acts are held accountable. “

Under UNSCR 1970 (2011), the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over all crimes of mass atrocities committed in Libya from February 2011. There have also been recent calls for the Human Rights Council UN Human Rights Commission establish a commission of inquiry to investigate and provide evidence to various judicial mechanisms. The United Nations Security Council should impose targeted sanctions on all individuals and forces – both domestic and foreign – who continue to actively undermine the Libyan peace process and attempt to overthrow the government recognized by the UN.