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Child abuse on rise in war-torn Syria - UN

Published time: February 05, 2014 04:36
AFP Photo / Philippe Desmazes

AFP Photo / Philippe Desmazes

The UN has revealed more cases of child abuse in Syria, as rebels recruit refugee children in bordering countries and the Syrian government forces detain and torture children with rebel connections, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said.

"The suffering endured by the children in the Syrian Arab Republic since the outset of the conflict, as documented in this report, is unspeakable and unacceptable," Ban said in the report.

The report is dated January 27, but was only posted online on Tuesday. It looks at the timeframe between March 1, 2011 and November 15, 2013, and includes detailed accounts of rebels and Syrian government troops committing grave violations against children.

The UN has reported and blamed both sides for child abuse cases in the past, but this is the first report revealing that the situation is worsening in the region. The organization has raised the issue of the increasing recruitment of children for rebel combat operations.

"Of particular concern were cases of recruitment or attempted recruitment of children within refugee populations in neighboring countries. The majority of incidents were related to recruitment by Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups or Syrian Kurdish armed groups," Ban said.

The report identifies the lack of education and job opportunities as leading causes for the increasing recruitment of children.

"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 FSA-affiliated groups," the report said.

The Syrian refugee situation has been severe since protests against President Bashar Assad, which started in March 2011, grew into a full-scale civil war. It is estimated that more than two million people, mostly women and children, have fled the country.

The UN report also described forceful government tactics such as the “arrest,” “arbitrary detention,” and “torture” of children with links to the opposition, as well as the use of “children as human shields.”

Other abuses included: "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.”

The Syrian National Coalition said on Tuesday that it will take part in the second round of Geneva 2 talks. The Syrian government expressed "no doubts" that it will also attend, Russia stated, adding that Syria plans to send a shipment of chemical agents out of the country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader Ahmad Jarba on Tuesday. Following the talks - which took place in Moscow and focused on the temporarily halted peace conference in Switzerland - Jarba confirmed to Russian media that the SNC will come to Geneva on February 10.

“We have agreed to take part in Geneva [peace] conference to fulfill the Geneva Communiqué…We have stated our intention to take part in the second round of talks on February 10,” Interfax quoted Jarba as saying.

The United Nations estimates that the violence in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people, including more than 10,000 children.

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