New York - Parties to the conflict in Syria exhibited a blatant disregard for the life and fundamental rights of children, concludes the second report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, which documents grave violations committed against boys and girls between 16 November 2013 and the end of June 2018.
“The report describes deeply disturbing violence against children, committed in a climate of widespread impunity,” stated Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “This report also brings additional evidence that it is high time for the children of Syria to have the opportunity to live in peace. I call on all parties and those who can influence them to use this information, often verified at high- risk by our colleagues, in their efforts to bring a political solution to this terrible conflict.”
The report covers a large portion of the Syria conflict, marked notably by the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the use of toxic chemical agents against civilians, including children, and the complexities and multiplicity of armed actors fighting on all sides of the conflict, either in the form of alliances, as well as independently.
During the reporting period, the United Nations verified 12,537 grave violations against children.
One of the most alarming trends documented was the continued erosion of the respect of children’s lives. A total of 7,339 child casualties were verified (3,891 children killed and 3,448 maimed), demonstrating a significant and steady increase in the nearly five years covered by the report. Some casualties were the result of inherently indiscriminate or disproportionate weapons such as barrel bombs or cluster munitions. Other children faced gruesome deaths by stone-throwing, crucifixion or other brutal tactics.
With 3,377 verified cases, the recruitment and use of children was the second most prevalent violation. The number of verified child recruits rose every year during the reporting period, just as children associated with armed forces and groups became younger. A quarter of the children recruited and used were under the age of 15, and the youngest was four years old. The majority, over 80% of them, were used in combat roles by over 90 factions of non-State armed groups, including groups self-affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), ISIL, Kurdish armed groups as well as the Syrian Government forces and pro-Government militia.
Alleged association to opposing parties resulted in deprivation of liberty for close to 300 children. While detained by the Syrian government or armed groups, children reported being victims or witnesses of torture or other ill-treatment.
Children also faced abductions (693 cases verified) and sexual violence (98 cases, although this violation remains underreported), including forced marriage to members of armed groups. Attacks on schools and hospitals, as well as the military use of these institutions greatly affected the availability of essential medical and educational services. Finally, the denial of humanitarian access became a tactic used in this conflict, notably through the besiegement of entire communities for months, if not years. Over 2,000 of the verified violations presented in the report occurred in besieged areas, demonstrating how children were also victims of compounded violations.
Dialogue with the Government of Syria resulted in the development of a national work plan to end, prevent and respond to underage recruitment. The Syrian Government is urged to build on this workplan by developing an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by its forces and to fully implement its national law, which prohibits the recruitment and involvement of children in hostilities.
“Dialogue is essential and I call for an enhanced engagement with all parties to the conflict, including those exercising influence on them to improve the protection of all children in Syria. Child protection must also be included in future peace negotiations and stabilization efforts,” declared the Special Representative. “All children in Syria deserve to be at the center of all efforts to end this terrible conflict and return to the peaceful life they deserve.”
Read the full report here