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Syria among 52 perpetrators of grave violations against children – UN report

Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy.
UN Photo
Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy.

Syria among 52 perpetrators of grave violations against children – UN report

The United Nations has named 52 parties on its annual ‘list of shame’ of those who recruit and use children, kill and maim, commit sexual violence or attack schools and hospitals, including four new parties in Sudan, Yemen and Syria.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s yearly report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict gives an overview of the grave violations committed against girls and boys in conflict zones, the main perpetrators as well as measures taken for the protection of children.

“2011 shows a mixed picture,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.

“While new crises erupted with a heavy toll on children such as in Syria, and also in Libya, violations against girls and boys have come to an end in other parts of the world,” she noted.

Children in Syria – where more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago – were victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, by the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces, and the Shabiha militia.

Young people between 8 and 13 were forcibly taken from their homes and used by soldiers as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on villages, according to a news release issued by the Special Representative’s office. Schools have been regularly raided, used as military bases and detention centres.

In detention, girls and boys were beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions and to electrical shocks, as well as whipped with heavy electrical cables.

“The world is keeping a detailed account of the violence committed against civilians in Syria and I am confident that these crimes will not go unpunished,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.

A worrisome trend is the growing use of children as suicide bombers and “victim” bombers – those who do not know that they are carrying explosives and are detonated from distance. In 2011 alone, at least 11 children in Afghanistan and another 11 girls and boys in Pakistan were killed while conducting suicide attacks, some as young as eight years old.

“The world should unite against this inhuman and perverse practice of child suicide bombers,” the Special Representative said.

Meanwhile, the report notes that parties to conflict in Nepal and Sri Lanka have been de-listed after their successful completion of Security Council-mandated action plans to end the recruitment and use of children.

In 2011, five more parties in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and South Sudan entered into similar agreements with the UN. Also in 2011, releases of children associated with armed forces and armed groups have taken place in CAR, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, South Sudan and Sudan.

“The progress is continuous but the list of parties to conflict who harm girls and boys will always be too long,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said.

The report for the first time ever, thanks to a Security Council resolution adopted last year, lists parties responsible for attacks on schools and hospitals in addition to those who recruit, kill and maim, or commit sexual violence.

They include armed groups in Afghanistan, DRC and Iraq, as well as the Syrian Government forces who regularly shell, burn, loot and raid schools, as well as assault or threat teachers, students, and medical personnel.

Ms. Coomaraswamy called for stronger action against the growing list of persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children – those who have been listed for at least five years – which has doubled since last year to 32.

“We must put more pressure on these parties through sanctions, other Security Council action, and closer collaboration with national and international courts,” she stated.