Syria gained notoriety on Tuesday when it was inducted into the United Nation’s “list of shame” countries known for their physical and sexual abuse of children in armed conflicts.
The new report, published on Monday, comprises 52 countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo where children are victims of conflict.
Libya also debuts in the report. Since the uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi began in February last year, the report highlights a widespread inclusion of children in armed groups and forces. While child casualties were not strictly documented, it claimed 129 children had been killed and reported 247 incidents of torture.
“Children as young as 9 years of age were victims of killing and maiming, detention, torture, arbitrary arrests and were used as human shield by the Syrian government forces, including the Syrian Armed Forces, the intelligence forces and the Shabbiha militia. And in addition these forces have regularly raided and used schools as military bases and detention centers,” U.N. special envoy for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
The U.N. special envoy for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said the body received credible information on the Syrian armed opposition’s abuse of children since the conflict erupted in March last year. This conflicts claims made by the Free Syrian Army which maintains its policy does not allow the recruitment of soldiers under the age of 17.
“I sent a technical team out to the refugee camps to take affidavits and testimony, and we have children as young as 14 in detention being tortured by government forces with marks visible on their bodies. Children told my technical team about being beaten, of being scarred by severed bones and whipped with electrical cables. Cases of sexual torture were also recorded against these children,” she said.
Coomaraswamy also mentioned evidence on the use of children as human shields.
“Children from the Ayn l'Arouz village, for example, described how children were put up against the window of a bus carrying military personnel, so as to protect it from being attacked."
The death of the teenage boy Hamza al-Khatib last May caused an international uproar. Khatib was detained by men loyal to Assad, tortured and killed; his body then sent to his family bearing burns, bruises, bullet wounds and severed genitals.
His death drew worldwide condemnation over the excessive violence which not only affected adults, but now children were targeted as well.
Many children were also killed in the recent massacres in Houla and Mazraat al-Qubeir, according to U.N. monitors visiting the country.
About 10,000 people are estimated by the U.N. to have been killed since the conflict began.