UNICEF won’t condone rugby player Sonny Bill Williams’ posting of pictures of dead children in Syria because it doesn’t respect their rights in death, reported AAP.

The All Black created an online stir by tweeting graphic images of dead children following his visit to Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. The photos depict two children lying dead with horrific injuries.

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“What did these children do to deserve this?” the caption sent to his more than 500,000 followers read.

“This summer share a thought for the innocent lives lost every day in war.”

The high-profile sportsman travelled to camps in the Bekaa Valley earlier this month as a Unicef ambassador.

But Unicef NZ spokesman Patrick Rose says while Williams’ emotional reaction to the situation is admirable, the global charity can’t condone posting pictures of dead children.

He said the organisation took children’s rights seriously both in life and death and publicising pictures of their deaths breached those. Rose added, the organisation was now talking to Williams about how they would go forward and hoped in future they could better co-ordinate a response together.

It was not up to Unicef to tell people how to deal with their own personal shock, he said.

The images also drew a critical reaction from some of Williams’ Twitter followers. They pointed out some could have reacted adversely to the images and his young followers would also have seen them.

“Too late if they’ve already seen these pictures. He should, at least, have included a trigger warning,” one said.

Another said Williams was insensitive and young people followed him because he was a sports star not for his politics.

Some, however, were supportive.

“It is a ferocious reality. Good on him for sharing. People can un-follow,” one said. 

UNICEF Australia spokeswoman Kate Moore told News Corp Australia that “UNICEF would never share an image like that”.

Ms Moore said she had spoken to her UNICEF New Zealand colleagues who have not spoken to Williams about his tweet yet.

“I haven’t ever met Sonny Bill Williams, the relationship he has been with UNICEF New Zealand, but having been there myself earlier this year, it is something that is really disturbing to see,” she said.

“What he tweeted is a reality. But it’s the sharing of the image that UNICEF would not do.” “UNICEF would never share an image like that. When a child is deceased, the dignity and rights of that child no longer speak for itself.”