BEIRUT – Children in Syria have been tortured, sexually abused and subjected to indiscriminate attacks by President Bashar Assad’s forces, and recruited for combat and terror operations by the rebels fighting to topple him during the country’s nearly 3-year-old conflict, a new United Nations report said.
The report to the U.N. Security Council by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlights the plight of children in the conflict from the beginning of the uprising against Assad in March 2011 until Nov. 15, 2013. It was given to the council this week and posted on the U.N. website Tuesday.
Ban said Syrian children have been subjected to unspeakable and unacceptable suffering during that time. Violations must come to an end now, he said.
The uprising against Assad’s rule began with largely peaceful protests in 2011 but evolved in time into a bloody civil war that has killed more than 10,000 children according to U.N. estimates and more than 130,000 people, according to activists.
Millions of Syrians have fled their homes, seeking shelter in neighboring countries or in safer parts of their homeland.
The conflict has hit the country’s children hard.
In the early stages, Ban said, violations against children were committed largely by Syria’s armed forces, intelligence forces and allied Shabiha militia, but as the conflict intensified and the opposition became more organized, an increasing number of violations committed by Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups have been documented.
The report said the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of weapons and military tactics by government forces and associated militias has resulted in countless killings and the maiming of children, and has obstructed children’s access to education and health services.
Military forces have pounded rebel-held areas with airstrikes and artillery and also subjected them to blockades of food and medicine.
According to the report, Syrian forces have also been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment, and torture of children in detention facilities.
Children in government custody have reportedly suffered beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons, electric shock and sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape, mock executions, cigarette burns, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement, the report said.
Ban said the U.N. also received consistent reports of the recruitment and use of children by Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups as fighters as well as cooks, porters, spies, messengers and smugglers of arms across borders.
It said reports of boys and girls aged 14 to 17 associated with Syrian Kurdish armed groups in Al Hassakeh governorate in support and combat functions were also documented and verified.