GENEVA – A UN report has revealed grave child abuses in Syria by both the government forces and rebels for the first time since the eruption the conflict three years ago.
“Government forces have … been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children,” said the UN report cited by Al-Jazeera on Wednesday, February 5.
“Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations … in civilian-populated areas.”
Based on testimonies of Syrian children in their home country and in refuge, the appalling report covers the period from March 1, 2011 to November 15, 2013.
The report describes the suffering of the Syrian children as “unspeakable and unacceptable”, urging an immediate end to the ongoing abuse.
“Violations must come to an end now,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the report.
According to the report, the Syrian government has been the main perpetrator of crimes against children since the beginning of the conflict.
As the unrest escalated, the report said that rebels became responsible for abuses as well.
During 2011 and 2012, Al-Assad troops were responsible for large scale arrest campaigns against children.
Government forces “were responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention and torture of children for their perceived or actual association with the opposition, and for using children as human shields,” the report said.
Along with detention, children suffered from “beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shocks, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails.”
“Sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives,” it added.
The report also pointed to an evidence of seizing young males and exploiting them to work at checkpoints and pro-Assad raids on rivals.
The UN's detailed child abuse report comes amid fading future of peace talks between the country's opponents.
The first round of Geneva II talks has concluded last Friday without agreement to end ongoing violence, with hopes that the second round next week may bring the long-awaited progress.
Loosing beloved relatives and family members frequently, distressed Syrian children became more vulnerable to recruitment by rebels, deeming it as “duty”.
“Interviews with children and their parents indicated that the loss of parents and relatives, political mobilization and peer pressure from families and communities, contributed to the involvement of children with Free Syrian Army (FSA) affiliated groups,” the report said.
“Many boys stated that they felt it was their duty to join the opposition,” it added.
Although the UN receives consistent reports of recruitment by rebels, the report said that the recruitment was not conducted as a “policy”.
Along with the previous reason, the UN found that, “the lack of education or job opportunities and peer pressure were identified as key factors leading to the recruitment of refugee children.”
The recruited children not only serve in battle fields, but they could also serve as cooks, porters, cross-border arms smugglers, lookouts, and spies.
“Many are killed not only because they're fighting, but because they're performing these functions and are in the middle of the battle fields,” Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told Al Jazeera.
In January, an investigative report by world renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts stirred international condemnations for the Syrian regime after finding a proof that Bashar Al-Assad has systematically tortured and executed thousands of detainees since the start of 2011 uprising.
The report was based on the evidence of a defected military police photographer, referred to only as Caesar, who along with others reportedly smuggled about 55,000 digital images of some 11,000 dead detainees out of Syria.
The revolt against Assad began as peaceful protests calling for democracy and greater rights, but gradually turned to an armed struggle, pitting the Sunni majority against the president and his minority Alawite sect.
At least 125,835 since the start of the Syrian conflict, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced last week.
The UK based network, said that the toll included 44,381 civilians, 6,627 children and 4,454 women.
SOHR stated that at least 27,746 of rebel fighters were killed, among them more than 19,000 civilian who joined the armed opposition to fight Assad.
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