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UN Reports Children Increasingly Vulnerable in Armed Conflict

A U.N. expert says children are increasingly victims of armed conflict, with two million killed in the last 10 years.

The U.N. representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, says children suffered disproportionately during the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon.

"The recent war in Lebanon, where far more children were killed than combatants, points to the fact that we have entered a dangerous era, where the basic principles of international humanitarian law, the foundation of all our work, is now being called into question."

Coomaraswamy explains what those principles are.

"The distinction between civilians and combatants, the principle of proportionality and the refusal to use civilians as human shields are principles that have sustained traditional armies and restrained the brute use of force in a civilized world," she added.

The United Nations reports the rights of children are being violated in more than 30 countries. In the last decade, the U.N. says, two million children have been killed in armed conflict, and six million children have been permanently disabled or injured.

It says more than 250,00 children are recruited as child soldiers, and tens-of-thousands of girls are being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. It says abductions are becoming more widespread.

Coomaraswamy urges the U.N. Human Rights Council and other agencies to do more to protect children in war.

She says, a report on the situation of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo spurred action in the Security Council.

"As a consequence of this report the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted certain conclusions and recommendations, including writing to the government of the DRC to ensure that it take effective action against impunity, urging MONUC [U.N. organization mission in DRC] to be proactive in arresting [rebel leader] Laurent Nkunda, a gross violator of the rights of children, and in requesting the sanctions committee to take necessary action against the MRC [Congolese Revolutionary Movement]," she said.

The human rights expert says monitoring of abuse is being stepped up in countries such as Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka and Nepal. This information will be given to the Security Council for it to take action.